Colville man sentenced seven years for death of son-in-law

RaeLynn Ricarte

James Claude Gates, 73, was sentenced last week to more than seven years in prison for killing his son-in-law near Colville last winter.
Gates had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the death of Mark Leland, 51, who had been married to his daughter, Michele.
She had been convicted of killing two children while she was a juvenile in Portland, Oregon, in 1978 and 1980. She later spent 15 years in a federal prison for attempting to hire a hit man to kill and woman and burn down her house.
Michele and Mark lived in Glendora, California, with two young daughters and had been visiting a home on Westover Road south of Colville for the holidays when the shooting occurred on Dec. 28, 2018.
According to court records, Gates shot Leland twice in the abdomen with a .357 pistol while the two were in a garage/shop that was separate from the residence.
“The two men had not gotten along in the past but, before the shooting, there had not been any trouble between them according to other persons present on the property,” said Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen following the sentencing hearing Oct. 21.
Michelle told law enforcement officials that her husband had beat Gates badly at their home in California two years earlier, but that the two men seemed to be getting along that evening.
Susan Alexander, who owned the home, said she had walked out to the shop with the two men so they could move some of Leland's stores belongings. She told investigators that she opened Leland's gun safe to show him that his firearms were still present and then relocked the safe before returning to her residence.
Leland was still conscious when deputies arrived and pleaded for medical attention.
“I tried to reassure him the ambulance and first responders were close,” wrote Deputy J.M. Foster in his report. “He said, ‘James shot me.’ Mark said he entered the garage and saw James on the floor. Mark said he asked him what happened and James told him, ‘You pushed me’ then James shot him.

Find more on this story in the Oct. 30 issue of The Statesman-Examiner.