DA says he's convinced killer Mark Wilson can be rehabilitated
(Update: Adding comments from former Deschutes County prosecutor Josh Marquis)
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told the state parole board he believes Mark James Wilson, one of two men convicted in the notorious 1987 double-murder of a Terrebonne couple, has shown in prison that he’s capable of rehabilitation, a newspaper reported Friday.
Hummel acknowledged the shooting deaths of Rod Houser, 53, and wife Lois, 49, during a late-night home robbery were among the most heinous and disturbing crimes in Deschutes County history, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. But he said Wilson’s conduct over more than three decades in prison has been impressive.
Wilson, now 50, was 18 when he shot Rod Houser 20 times with a .22-caliber rifle on the front porch of the couple’s home in the middle of the night. Co-defendant Randy Guzek shot Lois Houser in the head, heart and stomach with a .32-caliber revolver, having found her inside and screaming at the top of a staircase. The pair then looted the couple’s home.
The parole board is only deciding at this point whether Wilson is capable of rehabilitation in a reasonable period of time.
“Mark Wilson has convinced me he is,” Hummel told the board Thursday.
Unlike Guzek, who has filed multiple appeals over the ensuing decades and has been retried over legal issues several times in Bend, Wilson confessed and pleaded guilty to aggravated and felony murder. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms, with the possibility of parole.
Since then, Hummel noted, Oregon and U.S. Supreme Court rulings have found that “true life” sentences for juveniles amount to cruel and unusual punishment, due to their incomplete brain development.
But Rod Houser’s family members condemned Hummel’s recommendation as “frighteningly naive,” the newspaper reported. Doug Houser, the victim’s younger brother, went so far as to call Hummel “an embarrassment to the good people of Deschutes County and to Oregon.”
The family urged the board to keep Wilson behind bars for nearly another decade, at least, saying the minimum 40-year prison term was part of the plea deal.
"I do not think he should be eligible for parole, nor do I think he has earned parole," Doug Houser told NewsChannel 21 Friday. "I think it's highly unlikely he would ever be eligible for parole."
A parole board ruling is expected in several weeks. If the board finds Wilson is capable of rehabilitation, a separate hearing would take place to set Wilson's release date. Wilson told the board he'd want to live in Eugene and hopes to work as a legal assistant and continue his rehabilitation.
Shirley Houser, daughter of Rod and Lois Houser, said Friday, "There are many criminals who have reached an understanding of their crime, but there still needs to be a punishment. There needs to be some justice, and he agreed to the 40 years -- and Deschutes County agreed to the 40 years.”
But Hummel told NewsChannel 21 he believes the DA’s office “botched” the plea deal at the time, and said that as a result, he believes Wilson is eligible for parole.
"Mark Wilson spent 32 years in prison, and he has done everything possible to prove that he is likely to be rehabilitated,” the DA said.
In a comment posed Saturday to this article, retired Clatsop County district attorney Josh Marquis, a former Deschutes County prosecutor and frequent sharp critic of Hummel, disputed his claims and called Hummel "incompetent, a liar, or both."
Here's Marquis' full statement:
"I spent 1990 until 1994 as Chief Deputy in Deschutes County DA's Office, and in 1991 I tried Guzek for the second time - and for the second time a jury unanimously sentenced him to death.
"John Hummel is incompetent, a liar, or both. He has never tried a major case as a prosecutor, has refused to discuss the Guzek or Wilson case with the victims' family, and after refusing to make any recommendation about Wilson's parole in 2017, he has now decided Wilson 'did everything he could.' From 1997 to 2010, I tried Guzek two more times before Deschutes County juries - all sentenced Guzek to death and both the US and Oregon Supreme Courts have rejected his appeals.
"Again, Hummel's either lying or ignorant. Wilson testified in 1988 at trial, then failed to testify at either the 1991 or 1997 re-trials. After being denied parole because of his failure to carry out HIS side of the plea bargain (testifying against ringleader Guzek) in 2010 he testified as a hostile witness, claiming the planned murder was simply a 'burglary gone bad,' a claim the jury rejected.
"I had nothing to do with the original plea in 1988-89, but Hummel's claim that the plea agreement was 'flawed' is a total lie and nobody has ever seriously claimed so.
"Hummel is a defense attorney posing as a prosecutor, and the people of Deschutes County are being lied to and misled," Marquis concluded.