Wilkinson Faces Up To 30 Years In Central City Shooting Death
By Lee Hermiston, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Though he claimed he was "in fear of my life" before he fatally shot Gregory O'Hare, Martin Wilkinson agreed to a plea arrangement Friday that could send him to prison for 30 years.
Wilkinson, 64, of Central City, admitted Friday that he shot O'Hare in Wilkinson's bedroom on Aug. 23, 2012. Wilkinson told Judge Robert Sosalla that O'Hare had beaten him up that night and, while in the bedroom, was reaching for a rifle. Wilkinson said he shot O'Hare with a 9mm handgun as he went for the rifle.
"Perhaps I shot too early," Wilkinson said, referring to the first shot, "but I shot him again."
According to an autopsy, O'Hare died of multiple gunshot wounds. He was shot at least eight times, with five of those shots going into his back.
Wilkinson was involved in a five-hour standoff with authorities before being taken into custody. Witnesses discovered O'Hare's body in a rural area a short distance from Wilkinson's home and told police they heard gunshots the day before.
During a brief hearing, Wilkinson pleaded guilty to two counts in an amended trial information filed by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden. The agreement drops a first-degree murder charge against Wilkinson and charges him instead with voluntary manslaughter.
Wilkinson also pleaded guilty to a prior charge of possession of firearm as a felon. Because of two prior convictions for third or subsequent offense drunken driving, both charges were enhanced to carry potential sentences of 15 years each.
Sosalla told Wilkinson because a firearm was used in the crimes, the manslaughter charge would carry a minimum sentence of five years and the firearm charge would carry a minimum sentence of three years.
Wilkinson's attorney, Kjas Long, said after the hearing that a number of "contradictions" in the testimony led him to agree to the plea agreement.
"It saves the taxpayers a lot of money and gives some certainty to my client," Long said.
Vander Sanden said he would wait until sentencing - which will be scheduled at a later date - to say why he agreed to the plea arrangement. Vander Sanden did say O'Hare's family consented to the arrangement.
"We'll elaborate more on that at the time of sentencing," he said.
Vander Sanden told Sosalla that the state will recommend the two sentences be served consecutively for a total potential sentence of 30 years. Long said he will seek to have the sentences run concurrently for a maximum period of incarceration of 15 years. Long said he also intends to call witnesses at the time of sentencing who will testify that his client is not a violent person.
Sosalla warned Wilkinson that, ultimately, it will be his decision as to whether the sentences run consecutively or concurrently.
"In the final analysis, it's going to be my decision as to what the sentencing is going to be," Sosalla said.