Family killer headed for new sentencing


Twenty-four years after he was sentenced to life in prison for killing his parents and youngest sister, Billy Frank Gilley Jr. has gone back to Jackson County Circuit Court in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Federal courts have ruled that he didn't get adequate representation when he was sentenced to three life terms for beating his family members with a baseball bat.

Gilley is now 42. He was 18 when he was convicted. He's being held in the Jackson County Jail. He had been serving time in Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.

At a hearing Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Ron Grensky gave the lawyers three months to review decades-old files and prepare for a new sentencing hearing.

Prosecutor Beth Heckert said the proceedings will include "a mini-trial" with expert witnesses called for each side.

"This is going to take several months (to prepare) given the complexities of the issues," said Gilley's lawyer, Paul Beneke.

Reviewing the trial, two federal courts said there was little dispute about the facts, only about whether Gilley's lawyer at the time should have presented defenses such as self-defense or should have presented evidence of mitigating factors during sentencing.

On April 26, 1984, Jody Gilley skipped high school classes. When she came home, she argued with her mother.

Billy told his sister that he would like to bash his mother's head with a baseball bat. He also angrily referred to his father's practice of whipping him with a garden hose.

Later that night, Billy Gilley woke up Jody and told her to keep their younger sister, Becky, upstairs. But Becky followed her brother downstairs. Jody heard Becky scream, followed by pounding sounds.

Billy Gilley came back upstairs covered with blood. He said they were "free now." He said it was like "Friday the 13th" and "more messy than he thought it would be."

At his sentencing Gilley said he was "still confused about it all." He added he'd been physically threatened and "had a great fear" a couple of days prior to the killing.

The Medford Mail Tribune reported that had he gotten the minimum sentence &

30 years for each murder to be served simultaneously &

he could have qualified for parole after 20 years.

The federal courts ruled against alternate defenses but said evidence of parental abuse and a diagnosis of severe organic brain dysfunction and post-traumatic stress disorder should have been presented at sentencing.

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