RIGBY — A jury found Challis man Mark Wilson guilty of first-degree Wednesday after a three-day trial.
Wilson, 54, was on trial for killing his housemate, Patricia Brown, in March 2018 by shooting her in the back of the head with a .22 caliber rifle. The jury found Wilson guilty after four hours of deliberation.
Wilson also was found guilty for a firearm enhancement that adds a potential 15 years to his sentence.
There was no argument that Wilson did not kill Brown. Instead, the jury deliberated whether he premeditated the murder.
First-degree murder is punishable with a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence. The jury determined that Wilson killed Brown with forethought.
Though the murder was committed in Custer County, the case was heard in Jefferson County Courthouse due to concerns that Brown, a veteran and Commander of the Challis American Legion, was too well known in Challis for the court to find an impartial jury
Wednesday morning began with Custer County Prosecutor Justin Oleson calling his final witness, Ada County Coroner’s Office Pathologist Dr. Garth Warren.
Warren testified the bullet that killed Brown went through the back of her head and brain, causing her to bleed out her mouth and ears.
After Warren’s Testimony, Oleson said he had two more witnesses who would speak to Wilson’s 2005 case of felony battery. Wilson was arrested that year after he attempted to strangle his sister-in-law.
“The last time he tried to kill a woman who pissed him off, he tried to break her neck,” Oleson said.
Oleson argued the previous case was evidence to show Wilson had a history of violence against women and that his actions were not the result of the “heat of the moment” during an argument.
Defense Attorney James Archibald opposed introducing the previous case, saying it would prejudice the jury.
“Evidence from a prior case from 14 years ago really doesn’t have any bearing on whether there was a quarrel,” Archibald said.
District Judge Stevan Thompson decided not to allow mention of the prior case, deeming it too prejudicial. Oleson rested his case.
Archibald had listed four potential witnesses to be called, including Wilson, but chose not to question any of them and also rested his case.
During closing arguments, Oleson went through each step Wilson needed to take to kill Brown: He had to borrow the gun from Charles Thompson, bring it into the basement, load a round in the chamber, point and fire.
Oleson cited Warren’s testimony about the accuracy of the shot. He played the 911 call Wilson made when Linda Lumpkin, the Custer County 911 dispatcher, asked him to explain himself and Wilson refused.
“He didn’t say, ‘Well she attacked me,’ ‘Well, it was an accident,’ ‘Well, I had to defend myself,’” Oleson said.
Oleson noted that premeditation does not have to take a specific amount of time. He said a hunter choosing to shoot a deer second after seeing it still counts as premeditation.
Archibald told the jury the burden was not on him to prove Wilson acted without forethought, and that Oleson had to prove Wilson planned to shoot Brown.
Archibald pointed out that Wilson was the one to call police and that he made no effort to hide his actions.
“I’m going to shoot my friend then call the cops on myself? That is not a good plan,” Archibald said.
Archibald pointed to the mix of alcohol and medication in Wilson’s system as a factor in the shooting.
On redirect, Oleson said even if Wilson was intoxicated, it did not reduce the seriousness of his crime. He noted that Idaho law explicitly states that intoxication should not be a factor when charging a defendant.
“It minimizes his conduct,” Oleson said. “It’s not an excuse. It’s not a defense.”
Wilson is scheduled to be sentenced July 17. Oleson elected not to pursue the death penalty.