Plea deal reached in fatal shooting of Nevada County native Jamie Kinseth
Special to The Union
WOODLAND — Just days away from trial, a woman accused of fatally shooting her boyfriend made a plea deal Thursday that avoids a murder conviction and potential life sentence.
Both Hayley Katherine Gilligan and Jamie Kinseth are from Nevada County but were living in Davis. Kinseth is the son of Bruce Kinseth, a longtime educator in Nevada County who most recently served as interim principal at Bear River High School.
Gilligan, 30, pleaded no contest to an added charge of voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement for unlawful discharge of a firearm. She’s expected to receive a 13-year prison term at her July 15 sentencing hearing in Yolo Superior Court.
She had been charged with first-degree murder along with the special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait in connection with last fall’s shooting death of Kinseth, who was 35, inside the couple’s apartment.
Prosecutors had announced they would not seek the death penalty in the case, but the lying-in-wait charge — which alleged that Gilligan intentionally killed Kinseth by means of a surprise attack — exposed the former Woodland school district occupational therapist to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Thursday’s resolution came during an afternoon set aside for another matter in Gilligan’s case, which was scheduled to embark on a five-week trial starting Tuesday.
Defense attorney Joseph Gocke emerged from an inmate holding area with paperwork that turned out to be the written plea deal.
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount, the case’s chief prosecutor, told Judge Paul Richardson he had engaged in ongoing discussions about the resolution with Kinseth’s family, who agreed to its terms.
“This plea bargain takes into account their wishes, and what I think the victim, Jamie Kinseth, would want,” Mount said.
“That’s what you’re willing to do under the circumstances at this point?” Richardson asked Gilligan.
“Yes,” Gilligan faintly replied, dabbing at her face with a tissue.
She mouthed “I love you” to several relatives as she left the courtroom following the hearing. Both Gocke and Mount declined to comment.
Victim’s brother speaks out
Gilligan had claimed Kinseth was an ex-boyfriend she shot in self-defense from across her living room on the morning of Oct. 20, 2018, saying he had forced his way into her apartment, verbally threatened her and appeared to reach for a weapon. Friends said Gilligan told them Kinseth was abusive and stalked her in recent weeks.
But according to court documents and testimony at her two-day preliminary hearing, evidence at the scene showed Kinseth was shot at close range, his body dragged from the living-room couch — where he may have been asleep — to the entryway of the apartment.
Investigators also reported finding a bloodied pillow and clothing hidden in the residence, along with many of Kinseth’s belongings that indicated he had been living there. Affectionate texts between the couple, exchanged as recently as the day before the shooting, gave the appearance of an ongoing relationship.
Prosecutors said Gilligan hid Kinseth’s live-in status from her family, who disapproved of the relationship, and fatally shot Kinseth to end it once and for all. The defense, meanwhile, appeared poised to argue at trial that Gilligan was a victim of domestic violence that she concealed from relatives and friends.
Kinseth’s family was not in court Thursday, but the victim’s brother, Jesse Kinseth, later said in a phone interview that the case’s resolution “is a weight off our shoulders.”
He noted that while prosecutors felt they had a solid case against Gilligan, they also cautioned the Kinseth family of the risk of the trial ending in a hung jury.
“That would have been unacceptable and devastating to our family. This way, we guarantee some form of justice,” Jesse Kinseth said. “We know what happened, and she knows what she did, and she’ll have to live with that for the rest of her life.”
He also described his brother as “a gentle, caring, loving person who loved his friends and family. He didn’t deserve this, obviously.”
Lauren Keene is a reporter at The Davis Enterprise. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048.
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