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James Charles Tooley sentenced for life with possibility of parole for Gresham killings
by: Contributed photo, James Charles Tooley

A man who killed a pair of Gresham newlyweds and left their bodies in their home in the summer heat will spend at least 70 years in prison.

James Charles Tooley, 37, of Newberg was sentenced on Wednesday, Dec. 15, to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years for each of the two people he killed - Melinda Kotkins, 22, and Anthony Cooper, 26.

Because Judge John Wittmayer ruled the sentences be served consecutively, or one after the other instead of at the same time, the total of 60 years behind bars results in a true life sentence.

Add to that the 10 years Wittmayer sentenced Tooley on his conviction for solicitation to commit aggravated murder, and Tooley will serve at least 70 years in prison.

Two weeks ago, a Multnomah County jury rejected the death penalty for Tooley after finding him guilty of two counts of aggravated murder for the slaying of the Gresham couple in July 2008.

While in jail on the aggravated murder charges, Tooley hired a hit man to silence a witness against him. The intended victim was his cousin, who was like a brother to him before the cousin informed police that Tooley bragged about the murders. He also told two other people he killed the couple.

As outlined during the two-week trial, Tooley shot both victims execution style in the back of the head in their Gresham townhouse in the 800 block of Northeast Third Street on July 24, 2008.

The badly decomposed remains of the victims were found two weeks later when a bill collector noticed an odor at the townhouse.

Tooley worked for Cooper selling oxycodone - a highly addictive prescription painkiller being abused in epidemic proportions in Gresham at the time of the murders. But with Cooper in jail, Tooley took the opportunity to keep the $22,000 in drug profits he'd collected for Cooper.

At 2 a.m. July 24, Tooley shot Kotkins, Cooper's wife, in the entryway of her home when she opened the front door. He'd come by under the guise of delivering the $22,000 in drug proceeds.

Later that morning, when Cooper was released from jail, Tooley picked him up. After spending the morning and afternoon with Cooper, which included visits with Cooper's mother and Kotkins' father, he shot Cooper in his townhouse that afternoon.

Police arrested Tooley eight months later in March 2009. While in jail, Tooley offered to bail out a fellow inmate in exchange for the inmate killing Tooley's cousin, who turned him in to police. Because jail phone calls are listened to, police were able to stop the murder-for-hire plot.

Defense attorneys described Tooley as a family man, arguing the husband and father of two should not be sentenced to death because of his importance to family.

They emphasized that Tooley had no history of violence and instead argued that his actions were driven by an addiction to oxycodone.

The defense also argued for the minimum sentence allowed under Oregon law - life with 30 years before the possibility of parole.

But the victims' families wanted Tooley to serve a true life sentence and never be released from prison.

'Yes!' exclaimed one of Kotkins' relatives when the judge ruled that the murder sentences would be served consecutively.

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