Billy Gilley is escorted back to jail June 27, 1984, in Medford after having a psychiatric evaluation before his trial. - file photo

Gilley resentencing appeal denied

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Monday denied the appeal of one of Southern Oregon's most well-known criminals, triple-murderer Billy Gilley Jr.

Gilley — who as a teen beat his parents and youngest sister to death with a baseball bat in 1984 — was appealing a resentencing ruling handed down by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ray White in December 2008.

Monday's appeals court ruling does not prohibit Gilley from pleading his case before the Oregon Supreme Court, should they agree to hear it.

Gilley, now 45, has never denied the killings. He did, however, successfully appeal his original sentence — three consecutive life terms of a minimum of 30 years each.

After spending 24 years in prison, Gilley in May 2008 was granted the right to a resentencing hearing by the U.S. District Court in Portland. The district court's decision was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that the then-18-year-old Gilley did not have effective legal representation. A competent defense counsel, the court wrote, would have presented mitigation evidence at sentencing, including an expert's explanation that Gilley presented virtually no risk of recidivism.

The case was remanded to Jackson County for a resentencing trial. Gilley's public defender, Paul Beneke, who died in July 2010, argued that after two-dozen years behind bars, his client had served his time and deserved his chance before a parole board.

But after listening to two days of dramatic testimony from Gilley's surviving sister, neighbors and psychologists, White ruled Gilley must remain in prison for at least another 36 years.

White reinstated Gilley's original three life sentences ordered by Judge Mitchell Karaman in 1984. However, White ordered the sentences for the deaths of Gilley's parents, Billy Frank Gilley Sr. and Linda Gilley, to run concurrently. Gilley's sentence for murdering his 11-year-old sister, Becky, will run consecutively, White said.

Each sentence carries a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Gilley's new sentence means he must serve a minimum of 60 years in prison, beginning from the first day he was incarcerated 24 years ago, said District Attorney Mark Huddleston, in response to White's ruling.

Before handing down Gilley's sentence, White said he was sorry the 43-year-old had suffered from parental abuse. But Gilley is not a likely candidate for rehabilitation based on a lifelong pattern of bad judgment and illegal acts, he said.

Gilley's juvenile crimes included arson, theft and assault, and he has been diagnosed with "a sociopathic personality," White said.

Gilley poses a danger to himself and others, White said, adding Gilley had demonstrated little remorse for his actions, particularly for the killing of Becky.

Gilley spent decades winning the right to appeal his sentence. And Beneke announced Gilley would appeal White's decision at the time of the ruling. An earlier ruling by White that denied Gilley the right to have his resentencing hearing presented to a jury would be the basis for the appeal, he said.

Beneke argued during closing that his client had done everything possible to prove he is remorseful and rehabilitated. He has attended rehabilitation programs, achieved his high school equivalency diploma and attended anger-management classes, he said.

At the time of the crimes, Gilley was a chronically abused teen who had tried to get help by repeatedly calling child protective services, Beneke said.

Gilley said his parents had shamed and abused their children relentlessly. They had also been violent and cruel to each other, he said. But Gilley expressed sorrow for their lives, as well.

He was both afraid and sad for his parents, and had killed his mother and father to end the relentless cycles of abuse in which they had trapped their children — and to free them from each other, Gilley said.

"I know it sounds strange," Gilley said during his statement.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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