Dikeos sentenced to life in prison for Burnell murder
The Lake Oswego man arrested in the January 2018 slaying of a Newberg resident will spend at least the next 25 years in prison following a guilty verdict last week in McMinnville.
On Dec. 11, after a weeklong trial and more than 10 hours of deliberation, a jury in Yamhill County Circuit Court convicted Rees Gilmore Dikeos of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Jack Alan Burnell in an alley near Nap's Thriftway on Jan. 12, 2018. Judge Ladd Wiles then sentenced Dikeos, 21, to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 25 years incarceration.
Dikeos and Anthony Mark Gonzales were arrested in May 2018 by officers from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department on allegations they shot Burnell down the block from the small cottage he shared with four other individuals on Harrison Street.
NDPD Detective Joe Eubanks said in a probable cause affidavit that officers responding to a 9-1-1 call at 11:41 p.m. on that January evening discovered Burnell's lifeless body. He had died from multiple gunshot wounds, a medical examiner determined later.
"(Witnesses) told officers that Burnell was there to meet an old friend of his, who goes by the name "white man," Eubanks wrote in the PC affidavit. It was later determined that Dikeos often used the moniker on social media.
Investigative records from a second case against Dikeos in Marion County revealed that he may have blamed Burnell for a gun deal gone sour in the Keizer area the previous day, was bent on revenge and that he and Gonzales developed a plan to lure Burnell to the scene of the murder with the promise of a drug deal.
Dikeos' conviction comes after nearly two years of legal wrangling between his counsel, McMinnville attorney Carol Fredrick, and the prosecutor in the case, Holly Winter, a Yamhill County deputy district attorney. Since soon after Dikeos' arrest in May 2018, dozens of motions have been filed in court and the two parties unsuccessfully attempted to hash out a plea deal.
Fredrick filed a motion on Nov. 18 to have the case dismissed outright, claiming that numerous witnesses said "at least three individuals were observed at the immediate scene of the alleged incident within moments of the gun shots being heard. The physical description of these three individuals, the type of clothing that each were wearing and their immediate actions following the shooting were not consistent among the witnesses interviewed."
Fredrick further claimed that "numerous witnesses claimed to have heard and/or saw 'a firework' detonate immediately over the scene of the alleged incident," and that the fireworks may have "caused several of the witnesses to be initially confused as to what was happening."
The motion to dismiss also included reference to a search of trash cans mounted by NDPD officers at Burnell's 414 S. Harrison St. residence. The search revealed, the motion insists, dark-colored pants "and a black stocking cap with the eye holes cut out," as well as a box of fireworks consistent with witnesses' accounts of fireworks exploding at the time of the murder.
The officers photographed the clothing, but didn't seize it as evidence, Fredrick said, arguing that Dikeos was denied due process because the police failed to preserve the physical evidence and "thus destroyed potentially extremely important and possibly exculpatory evidence."
Ultimately, Frederick argued in her motion, the fireworks were used as a diversionary tactic by a group of people, dressed in the dark clothes found in the trash cans, that may have been responsible for Burnell's death.
The state acknowledged witness testimony that two or three individuals wearing dark clothing were seen running away from the scene, and that some witnesses heard what they believed to be fireworks at about the same time as the shooting.
"No one described seeing a person wearing a ski mask in the area at the time of the shooting," the state's response to Fredrick's motion said.
The prosecution also acknowledged that police had photographed several items found in the trash adjacent to Burnell's home, including a black ski mask, several items of clothing and an empty fireworks box. However, the investigators downplayed their value in the context of the murder.
"In short, they believed the items photographed had little to no evidentiary value to the investigation and did not seize the items as evidence," the motion said.
The district attorney's office further argued that Dikeos was not denied his due process rights because the evidence was never in the prosecution's possession and therefore couldn't be turned over to Fredrick to aid in Dikeos' defense.
"The defense has failed to establish that the discarded evidence was potentially useful in this case," the prosecution wrote in its answer to Fredrick's motion. "Additionally, they have failed to establish that the officers acted in bad faith."
Judge Wiles ruled against Fredrick's motion and the trial was allowed to forward as scheduled.
However, soon after, the court granted a motion from the prosecution to change the primary charge from murder to second-degree murder.
"Senate Bill 1013 (in the) 2019 legislative session, changed the definitions of murder, requiring the charge to be 'renamed' to be in compliance with the new law," said District Attorney Brad Berry, adding that those convicted of second-degree murder are not eligible for the death penalty.
"This was the result of a lot of hard work," Berry said of the conviction. "It began with an extremely thorough investigation by NDPD, lead by Detective Eubanks. The attorneys representing the state, DDA Holly Winter and (Assistant Attorney General) Kristen Hoffmeyer, worked extremely hard preparing for and trying the case. The jury deliberated thoughtfully and carefully (evidenced by the amount of time they deliberated) in reaching this result. They were, as were we, convinced of the guilt of Rees Dikeos.
"This was a tragic case involving the intentional taking of the life of Jack Burnell. This verdict does not lessen that tragedy. It does bring to justice the person who took that life."
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