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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Friday, May 3, 2013

Swinomish Tribal Member Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Second Degree Murder

Smothered Wife With A Pillow Following Argument

An enrolled member of the Swinomish Indian Tribe was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 20 years in prison and five years of supervised release for second degree murder, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  KEVIN S. O’LEARY, 55, a resident of the Lummi Reservation admitted that on June 7, 2012, he used a pillow to smother his common-law wife, Valerie Jefferson, who was a Lummi tribal member.  O’LEARY then wrapped her body in a blanket and hid it under the bed.  Law enforcement discovered Jefferson’s body five days later.   At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said, “This was an especially devastating domestic violence murder.  The children lost their mother and grandmother.  And the defendant’s actions after the death showed special callousness to those who loved Valerie Jefferson.”

According to the facts admitted in the plea agreement, O’LEARY and Jefferson had been arguing about an affair O’LEARY had had over a decade ago.  After several hours of arguing, O’LEARY pushed Jefferson onto their bed, grabbed a pillow and held it tightly over her neck and pressed down until her body went limp and her eyes rolled up in her head.  O’LEARY admits he killed Jefferson with malice aforethought, and wrapped the body in a blanket, and hid it under their bed. Both were enrolled tribal members and the murder was on Lummi tribal trust land, giving federal authorities jurisdiction in the case.

Speaking to the court Valerie Jefferson’s eldest daughter said, “We want him to know what he has taken from us.  He’s taken away our mother and our father – he was the only father we knew….. My mom was a beautiful person.  We hurt every day…. We are going to live in her honor the way she would have wanted us to be.”

Prosecutors noted that O’LEARY had previously caused the death of two other people writing to the court, “The defendant was convicted in 1981 with Negligent Homicide in Skagit County.  In that case, the defendant was driving drunk when he missed a corner, and drove off the highway into a ravine.  Two of his passengers were killed in the accident, including his girlfriend at the time.  He received a 10-year sentence that was suspended, and he was placed on Probation.”  Judge Lasnik noted that under today’s sentencing statutes, O’LEARY would have gotten far more prison time for that crime.

The case was investigated by Lummi Tribal police and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jerrod Patterson.

Updated March 24, 2015