Family of man killed with skillet devastated by Friday sentencing decision for murderer
May 14 - A man who pleaded guilty to killing his neighbor with a pan was sentenced to 22 years in prison in a plea on Friday, dismaying the victim's family.
Valerie McMullin has been disaffected with the justice system since her son Wilbur Tankersley was murdered in May 2020.
McMullin learned her son died through a news article rather than authorities, she said after the conviction. When she learned that her son was dead in the Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office, they told her she could not see his body.
She later learned through court documents that the man who confessed to killing her son - Cameron Walker, now 25 - had called the police earlier that night about a fight with her son and admitted to beating Tankersley several times, though Police did not arrest Walker.
Walker confessed to beating Tankersley on the night of the murder "until his soul left his body". His defense attorney Jeff Leslie said he would have advocated self-defense if they went to court because Tankersley and Walker had a physical battle prior to the murder, though Leslie said he doubted a jury would have agreed that the killing of Tankersley was warranted be. Instead, he pleaded guilty to first degree murder.
Leslie said Walker wouldn't admit it herself, but a psychologist had determined that Walker most likely had schizophrenia. Walker's adoptive mother, Angela Walker, told the judge that her family had tried many times to turn to Walker for help.
McMullin told Judge Harold Clarke that her family were "unanimously and vehemently" against the plea deal as soon as prosecutors made them aware of the possibility, but they felt they had no choice on the matter.
Tankersley's cousin Ramona Ann Smitch read a statement from Tankersley's grandparents to Clarke. They called for the death penalty.
"My cousin took a pan and hit it on the cement to understand," Smitch told Clarke after he finished testifying. "None of us can imagine the horror and the terrible path that we went."
Tankersley's sister, Crystalyn Noel Garrity, asked the judge to give Walker at least 36 years, the age of her brother when he died.
"The danger this man could inflict on another person deserves no accident," said Garrity.
Clarke agreed to the prosecutor's recommended prison sentence of 264 months, partly because Walker had no criminal history prior to the murder. He had no previous crimes in the state.
Smitch shook his head outside the courtroom on Friday following the decision.
"Devastating," said Smitch.
Tankersley struggled with schizophrenia but was under treatment at the time of his death, McMullin said after the hearing. Walker and Tankersley lived in a low-income tenant building at 240 W. Sprague Avenue. McMullin said after everything she'd seen, the police, prosecutors, and Clarke didn't seem to see much value in her son's life.
"I think he just wasn't important enough to them," said McMullin.
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