Man sentenced to 17 years in prison for friend's murder

Vancouver woman was beaten to death with baseball bat

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Murder victim Deneace L. McSpadden, 57, of Vancouver weighed less than 100 pounds and would have given anything to anybody, said her elder brother, Terry Hadley.

Flanked by a dozen of McSpadden's other loved ones, Hadley said Wednesday that the family had one chief question: Why would her friend, Mitchell K. O'Brien, 33, kill her with a baseball bat?

Although O'Brien apologized for her murder on June 26, 2011, he offered no insight into reasons for his crime before he was sentenced by a Clark County judge.

Superior Court Judge John Nichols sentenced him to nearly 17 years in prison for second-degree murder.

"No one should ever go through this," said Dena Hadley, McSpadden's sister-in-law. "There is no punishment that would ever be enough for taking a loved one."

O'Brien's sentence was part of a plea bargain. The deal reduced his charge from first-degree murder and spared McSpadden's family the ordeal of a trial.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson and O'Brien's attorney, Jeff Barrar of Vancouver, jointly requested the sentence of 200 months.

McSpadden, also known as Lyla D. Hadley, was a caring and giving person, compounding the incomprehensibility of the crime, her family said.

Her daughter, Jessica Sharpe, found her body on June 27, 2011, in the living room at her duplex at 1006 Morgan Road, just north of state Highway 14. Near her body were a blood-stained aluminum baseball bat and significant blood spatter.

"He called her his friend and then he killed her," said Daniel Lubinshi, Sharpe's husband. "My wife had to find her. It's a picture I'll never get over."

Andrea Lingle, McSpadden's daughter, said in a statement read by Dena Hadley that she still remembers the phone call from her sister.

"To lose my mother in such a violent manner is something I'll never get over," Lingle said. She said she has struggled with depression as a result of the crime.

O'Brien apologized for the pain he has caused McSpadden's family and friends.

He said he hoped that "one day, they would find it in their hearts to forgive me."

O'Brien was arrested a year after McSpadden's murder, when DNA evidence from the bat linked him to the slaying. Investigators were able to match the DNA profile to one obtained from O'Brien's skateboard, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in court.

At the time, O'Brien was serving a 41-month sentence at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen for a bank robbery that took place four days after the homicide. Investigators arranged for him to be transported to Clark County to face a murder charge.

In addition to the 200-month sentence for the murder, O'Brien will be required to serve 36 months of community custody and will be required to pay more than $5,000 in restitution, the cost of McSpadden's funeral, Jackson said.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com