July 19, 2001 11:00 pm
Liysa King-Northon ().
Liysa King-Northon ().

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Liysa King-Northons murder trial ended Thursday when the Bend woman pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter and spoke her first words to the jury.

I did what I had to do to save myself and my children who are the paramount thing in my life, the 39-year-old defendant said. Its just too bad that this is what it takes to protect ones family.

King-Northon was sentenced by Wallowa County Circuit Court Judge Phil Mendiguren to 12 1/2 years in prison with the possibility of up to one year credit for time served. She has remained in jail since turning herself in Oct. 10.

King-Northon admitted that she intentionally caused the death of her husband, Christopher James Northon, by shooting him with a firearm while she was under the influence of extreme emotional distress. The shooting occurred while Northon slept at a Lostine River Canyon campground Oct. 9.

If convicted by the jury of murder, King-Northon could have been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, defense attorney Pat Birmingham said. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and Measure 11 requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, Mendiguren said.

The judge said that he agreed to be bound by the specific sentence agreed to by the prosecutor and the defense attorneys. A similar offer made before the trial was rejected, Birmingham said.

Good time credit of up to an estimated 1 1/2 years might be earned by King-Northon for the 2 1/2 year upward departure on her sentence, but no good time credit is allowed for the 10-year required minimum, Birmingham said. He estimated that she would have to serve over 11 years in prison.

Fines and fees of $605 were also imposed. When Birmingham said she was indigent, Judge Mendiguren responded that she could earn certain monies in prison over the years.

King-Northon waived her right of waiting 48 hours to be sentenced. As the judge read the other rights that she was giving up with her plea, she hesitated before saying yes to the statement that she had not been tricked or coerced into making the confession.

Mendiguren cleared the courtroom shortly after reconvening at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

He said he was going to conduct a closed hearing on a defense motion to suppress new


The jury was brought back into the courtroom at 8:30 a.m. Thursday only to learn that the proceedings would be delayed again. That scenario was repeated again at 10 and 11:45 a.m. while the two sides were negotiating. Court was finally reconvened about 2 p.m.

An anonymous call had been received Wednesday by prosecutor Steven Briggs, informing him of the location of King-Northons missing computer, said the victims friend, Hawaii airline captain David Story.

King-Northon had given a computer to a friend in Hawaii for safekeeping about the time King-Northon told her husband that computers had been stolen from their home. The friend then moved, possibly to Connecticut, taking the computer along, Story said. The computer was retrieved from Connecticut and taken to Wallowa County, officials confirmed.

Allegedly on the computer was information about King-Northon trying to obtain Valium and a stun gun, Story said.

King-Northon had written three screenplays about an airline pilots abused wife who purchased life insurance on her spouse, then killed him. In one plot the character murdered him by dropping a stun gun into the water with him. In the King-Northon case, a stun gun was found, but not entered into evidence, Story said.

Writing out such fantasies is grapho-therapy, King-Northons father, Wayland DeWitt, said. He said had advised her to do so to cope with the stress of being terrorized by her husband over the last five years.

The past couple of years, DeWitt said he feared that his daughter might be killed. He said he bought her a snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver for protection from her husband.

Chris Northon was killed by that gun while in his sleeping bag on a sand bar on the Lostine River, 17 miles south of Lostine.

A high dose of a Valium-family sedative was found in Chris Northons blood. A toxicologist testified that the drug came in capsules that could be opened and the contents poured out into something.

Neither side was happy with the outcome. The defense wanted King-Northon to go free and the victims father wanted justice for the rare and extraordinary son that could not be there to tell his side of the story.

We pray daily that justice will be done, Dick Northon said at the end of the trial.

Judge Mendiguren thought the compromise was a fair result.

I dont think a trial judge is ever going to satisfy everybody, Mendiguren said. A judge will make at least 50 percent of the people unhappy, he said. It makes me feel better that it upset both of them.

King-Northon will have 30 days to appeal the sentence. After that, the evidence that was not yet presented by the prosecution can be made public, Story said.

The next step is the yet-to-be-determined custody proceeding for the couples son, 4-year-old Cane Northon, now living in Hawaii with King-Northons friend.