LUMMI RESERVATION - A man who allegedly suffocated his girlfriend with a pillow spent several days afterward smoking heroin in their home before authorities found her body hidden under a bed, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Kevin O'Leary, 55, was charged with second-degree murder Monday, July 23, in the death of Lummi tribal member Valerie Margaret Jefferson, 60.
Jefferson's family had reported her missing to the Lummi Nation Police Department June 11. When the family had tried to contact her, O'Leary had told them that she wasn't available or had left the house. Family members were concerned because she didn't like to leave the house if it wasn't necessary and they usually talked with her several times a day, according to court documents.
Lummi Nation Police went to the couple's Smokehouse Road apartment the next day, after Kevin S. O'Leary tried to kill himself by stabbing his stomach. During a search of the home, police could smell decomposition coming from a bedroom and discovered Jefferson's body wrapped in a blanket underneath a bed. When O'Leary was questioned before being taken to the hospital, he said Jefferson was "tired of suffering," according to court documents. Her family said she had been suffering from the effects of an earlier cancer.
Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel didn't find a specific cause of death, though he had told The Bellingham Herald in an email that her death was suspicious. He didn't find any cancer during the autopsy, according to the documents.
The investigation picked up steam in mid-July, after police got a call from O'Leary's niece. O'Leary had been living at her house for about two weeks when she called a Lummi Nation detective July 17 to say that he had been making statements about Jefferson's death that scared her. She said he had originally told her that after Jefferson had asked him several times to assist her with committing suicide, he finally agreed and choked her. In a later conversation, O'Leary told his niece that he had been arguing with Jefferson when he "snapped" and choked her, according to court documents.
O'Leary was question by tribal police and the FBI about Jefferson's death and used the same story he had first told his niece before confessing that he strangled Jefferson during an argument Thursday, June 7, according to the documents.
He said the two had been fighting when he grabbed a pillow, placed it over her neck and used both hands to choke her, using the weight of his body to hold her down for four to five minutes until she stopped moving. He said he didn't want her to die, but she did, and he didn't attempt to revive her or call 911, according to court documents.
He hid her body under the bed and for the next five days he drank and smoked heroin until he tried to kill himself. He told investigators he was sorry and felt he should "fry in hell" for killing Jefferson, according to the documents.
O'Leary, a member of the Swinomish tribe, had been with Jefferson for more than 27 years. His criminal history includes a conviction for manslaughter for killing his girlfriend and her brother when he was driving under the influence in 1982 in Skagit County.
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