Friday, January 11, 2013

Gresham, OR: Gresham man who killed once before gets 8 years for killing girlfriend

A convicted killer who was accused of beating to death his girlfriend -- making her his second victim since 1996 -- was sentenced to about 8 years in prison Thursday.
John Coleman Hardaway had been charged with aggravated murder and was facing a possible death sentence for causing the death of Barbara Nadine Smalley on May 20, 2011 in a Gresham apartment. Smalley's family said they were extremely disappointed with what they consider Hardaway's light sentence, and they worried that he might kill again when released in 2019.
Prosecutors say that as their investigation progressed new evidence arose, and they had to weigh the risks of going to trial. The prosecution would have called on medical experts who were expected to testify that Smalley died from a single blow to the head, but the experts couldn't say if someone struck her or if she fell and struck something. Defense attorneys were expected to call upon experts who would testify that Smalley, who was in poor health, died by accident when she fell on a coffee table in her apartment.
Prosecutors most likely would not have been allowed to tell a jury about Hardaway's history of fatally shooting a Portland man in the face during an argument in 1996.
Prosecutor Tom Cleary also said because Hardaway was highly intoxicated -- his blood alcohol level was about 0.30 percent -- it would have been more difficult to prove he "intentionally" caused her death, a necessary component of aggravated murder. Second-degree manslaughter requires that a defendant "recklessly" caused a death.
Hardaway last week pleaded guilty in Multnomah County Circuit Court to second-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault. His plea came in the form of an Alford plea, a legal term meaning that he doesn’t admit to the acts, but he does agree that there is enough evidence to convict him.
Prosecutors said they had to have some difficult but frank conversations with Smalley's family about what they thought they could prove.
David Stewart, Smalley's nephew, said after the hearing he didn't buy the argument that Hardaway shouldn't be held fully responsible because he was very drunk.
"No one poured those drinks in his mouth," Stewart said.
Stewart had told Hardaway during the hearing that he hoped Hardaway used his time in prison to become a better person.
"If you don’t, chances are after a few years of getting out, you will be right back here," Stewart said.
In May 2011, police were called to the apartment in the 17700 block of East Burnside Street by a neighbor who told officers she’d heard a woman screaming “no” and what sounded like a beating for nearly 30 minutes before calling 9-1-1.
Police banged on the door for a few minutes before Hardaway, then 44, answered. An officer stepped inside to find Smalley, 58, unconscious with wounds to the head. She was lying on the floor beside a broken coffee table.
Smalley was rushed to Legacy Emanuel Hospital and underwent emergency brain surgery. She was pronounced dead eight days after the incident.
Hardaway was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in 1997 for shooting and killing the Portland man. He served 14 years in prison, and had been released about one year before killing Smalley. Hardaway was charged with aggravated murder -- rather than just murder, which wouldn’t have made him eligible for the death penalty -- in Smalley’s death because of his previous manslaughter conviction.
During Thursday's sentencing hearing, Hardaway declined to make a statement when given a chance. Smalley's family -- including her two sons and three of her siblings -- described Smalley as someone who was always smiling, laughing and open-hearted.
Smalley's sister, Patricia Collins, said she believed Hardaway took advantage of her sister for free food and a place to stay. Hardaway was more than a decade younger than Smalley at the time of her death. Smalley also had asthma and emphysema, she said.
Smalley's family spoke of how Smalley had fallen head-over-heels for Hardaway. To love others, they said, was her nature.
"My own mom was in love with you and didn’t judge you for your past," said Michael Shields, one of Smalley's adult sons. "She wanted to spend the rest of her life with you.”

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