BEND, Ore. - A member of the notorious 'Redmond Five' group is back in the Deschutes County Jail on Tuesday, awaiting what could be a new sentence for the murder of 52-year-old Barbara Thomas back in 2001.
Justin Link -- then 17, now 31 -- will appear before a Bend judge Sept. 2nd to ask for a lighter sentence in the wake of a 2009 Oregon Supreme Court ruling.
It's a case many on the High Desert still remember with a chill -- a brutal slaying at the woman's home on the Old Bend-Redmond Highway, horrifying a community as the details came to light and played for years in court.
"The community was angered this could happen," former Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said Wednesday. "How could this happen? Certainly we don't know why."
Five teens, the oldest 18 years of age, hatched a plan to attack and kill Thomas one day in March of 2001. Dugan said the teens wanted to steal her car to go to Canada, where they thought marijuana was legal, but were stopped at the border.
One of Thomas' attackers was her own son, 18-year-old Adam Thomas.
The cruelty of the crime and the youthfulness of the perpetrators eventually led to the teens becoming known as the Redmond Five. It's a case former Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said he'll never forget.
"Three boys and two young girls that committed a horrendous crime," Dugan said.
"They put an electric fan in the bathtub with a bunch of wires to electrocute her. That didn't seem to work too well," Dugan recalled. "They proceeded to pummel her about the head with wine bottles. They got a gun and eventually shot her at point blank range."
Fifteen-year-old Seth Koch -- who fired the fatal rifle shot -- 16-year-old Lucretia Karle, 15-year-old Ashely Summers and Thomas all pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. Link refused to take a plea deal and his case went to trial, where he was found guilty of multiple counts of aggravated murder, among other charges.
The girls were sentenced to a firm 25 years in prison, without chance of early parole, the boys to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Appeals have followed, as did a bid by Summers to have then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski grant clemency, a request he denied.
But next week, Link will have a new day in court. He has won an appeal to get three of his five aggravated murder charges dropped.
It all revolves around Link's role in the murder. He never pulled the trigger of the .308 caliber riffle, he never touched Thomas and was actually standing outside her home when the murder took place, talking to those inside by phone.
Prosecutors, however, argued Link was the mastermind behind the plot and the leader of the group. As Circuit Judge Alta Brady put it at his sentencing, Link had the other two boys "do the dirty work" for him, having told them to end her suffering, and to finish what they started.
Still, in 2009 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled three of Link's murder convictions would be dropped. The ruling set a precedent that in some cases, aggravated murder charges could only be linked to the those who physically committed murder.
The court decided in December that Link, now convicted of a reduced set of charges, is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.
"He now has the opportunity to present his case as to whether or not he should get true life (life in prison without parole)," Dugan said.
Will three fewer convictions make a difference? Dugan doesn't think so.
"His options are true life in prison or life in prison with possibility of parole after 30 years," Dugan said. "That's the best-case scenario for him."
Dugan said he hopes Link will get a one-way ticket back to prison, for the rest of his life.
"I see no reason why he shouldn't get true life again," Dugan said. "Of course, they got what they deserved. Barbara Thomas wasn't given due process."
Current DA Patrick Flaherty was not available Wednesday afternoon to comment on the case.
NewsChannel 21 also spoke with a member of Thomas' family, who said they are not concerned Link will get a lighter sentence, and called it a "slam-dunk case."