PENDLETON — Leman Louis Bledsoe of Milton-Freewater is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing a highway construction flagger.
Bledsoe, 77, faced sentencing Thursday afternoon in Umatilla County Circuit Court, Pendleton, for first-degree manslaughter and other charges stemming from the night of Aug. 14, 2018, when he drove drunk through a construction zone on Highway 11 near Athena and crashed into Tyresa Monaghan, 49, of Kennewick. She died at the scene.
Circuit Judge Christopher Brauer cut Bledsoe no slack for his age and sentenced him to 12 years in prison — 10 for the mandatory minimum that comes with the manslaughter charges and the other two for charges of hit-and-run, driving drunk, recklessly endangering others and reckless driving.
A dozen of Monaghan’s relatives and supporters filled the benches in the courtroom. They brought a large portrait of Monaghan to display. Brauer heard from several of them, the attorneys and Bledsoe before handing down the sentence.
Monaghan’s son, Christian Jamison, told the court his mother was a happy person.
“She brought a light to this world,” he said.
Jamison was living in Texas the night his mother died. They spoke on the phone, and he was waiting for her to get on break so they could talk more.
“It’s a call I’ll never get back,” he said.
He also thanked the police, the lawyers on both sides and the court in particular for being impartial.
Colleen Kelly, Monaghan’s mother, directed her words straight to Bledsoe sitting several feet away in yellow jail clothes, handcuffs, barefoot and in a wheelchair.
“I hate what you did,” she exclaimed, and she hated having to be there.
She recalled her daughter as a good mother, a believer in God and the person who would give to those in need.
“I don’t know how to get over not hearing ‘mama,’” Kelly said.
While her faith does not allow her to wish Bledsoe harm, she said, it does allow her to want him to stay locked up so he can no longer harm anyone else.
“All I can say is, may God rest your soul,” she concluded.
Bledsoe also addressed the court, speaking in a low mumble. He recalled doing five years in state prison in the 1980s for attempted murder, claiming that victim was a child molester.
“I’m not any more evil than you are,” he said to Brauer. “As I said, I’m sorry a life was taken. I didn’t have that much to drink.”
Deputy District Attorney Daniel Pachico, who led the prosecution and won guilty verdicts at the trial in early August, recommended the 12-year sentence. Defense attorney Kara Davis argued for less time, citing her client’s ill health and pointing out the jury voted 10-2 on the charge that mattered most: first-degree manslaughter.
Oregon is the only state now allowing non-unanimous verdicts, she said, and the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the constitutionality of that matter in October. She said the Bledsoe case could come back, and the state’s demand for 12 years rather than the mandatory minimum 10 amounts to punishing Bledsoe for being an alcoholic.
“He is not being punished for being an alcoholic,” Pachico countered. “He is being punished for drinking, driving and killing someone.”
Brauer said Bledsoe showed no remorse at trial, and while 12 years does not fit the crime of taking a person’s life, this sentence could equate to the death penalty.
“He’ll be in prison — in all likelihood — until he drops dead there,” the judge said.
Davis told the court she plans to appeal the sentence.