MADRAS, Ore. - A 21-year-old Crooked River Ranch man has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of two roommates in February of last year, in exchange for prosecutors seeking life without parole instead of the death penalty, authorities confirmed Monday.
Mitchell Julio Morris, now 21, already had reportedly confessed to the killings of roommates Bailey Southwick, 18, and Mackenzie Lyman, 21, on Feb. 26 of last year. Morris, who told police they had not been arguing prior to the killings, fled the scene in a pickup truck and was arrested the next morning by police in Salem.
Morris told police he walked out of a bedroom and shot Southwick, then shot Lyman, who had walked out of another bedroom. He said he dropped the gun, packed a bag and fled.
He had pleaded not guilty last November to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.
In a petition filed Friday, Morris agreed to plead guilty to two aggravated murder charges and said he understands “the state will not seek a death sentence in this case and the parties stipulate that I will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release or parole.” It also notes that he could still appeal the conviction to the Oregon Court of Appeals within 30 days of sentencing.
Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche told NewsChannel 21 he learned of the guilty-plea petition Monday after "months of hearings and meetings" in the case.
Leriche said a pre-trial conference already scheduled for next Wednesday also was set as "a deadline for the case to complete (plea) negotiations or set a date for trial."
The prosecutor said a plea entry and sentencing could take place at that time, though there are some minor revisions needed in the petition and the need for scheduling of victims' and court availability. If the sentencing does not occur next week, the judge is likely to set the date for it at that time, he added.