Man gets 20 years in prison for smothering wife to death on Lummi Reservation

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 3, 2013 

A Swinomish tribal member was sentenced to 20 years in prison for smothering his common-law wife to death with a pillow during an argument in their Lummi Reservation home in June 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Kevin S. O'Leary, 55, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last fall for the death of Valerie Jefferson, 60. He was sentenced Friday, May 3, in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

On June 7, O'Leary smothered Jefferson with a pillow, then wrapped her body with a blanket and hid it under their bed.

Jefferson's family reported her missing to the Lummi Nation Police Department on June 11. Police arrived at the couple's Smokehouse Road apartment the next day, after O'Leary tried to kill himself by stabbing his stomach.

Inside the home, police could smell decomposition coming from a bedroom and discovered Jefferson's body under the bed.

Because the murder was on tribal trust land, federal authorities had jurisdiction in the case.

O'Leary and Jefferson had been together for more than 27 years.

According to his plea agreement, O'Leary and Jefferson had been arguing for several hours about an affair O'Leary had a decade ago. He pushed Jefferson onto the bed, grabbed a pillow and held it tightly over her neck, pressing down until her body went limp.

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik called this an "especially devastating domestic violence murder," with children and grandchildren losing a family member. Jefferson's oldest daughter described her as a "beautiful person."

Prosecutors also brought up O'Leary's 1981 conviction for negligent homicide in Skagit County, in which two people in his car died when he was driving drunk and got in a crash.

Reach Zoe Fraley at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or call 756-2803.

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