ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The family of a Douglas County man who was killed more than three years ago is speaking out just days after the man accused of the murder was found not guilty.
Brandon Michael, 26, was shot and killed in the Lawson Bar area of the South Umpqua River in May 2017 while he was panning for gold with his girlfriend, Kayla Viol.
Viol said she hear shots fired before Troy Phelps, 38, forced her into his car and attempted to burn her car.
“That was a very traumatic day and I’ve had to relive it many times,” she said. “It was the worst day of my life.”
Last week, Phelps was acquitted of the murder of Michael. However, he was sentenced to nearly six years in prison for reckless burning and felon possession of a firearm.
Viol told KEZI 9 News that she is still trying to process the verdict. She said she was sure Phelps would pay for what he did to Michael.
“The verdict, it was devastating,” she said. “Heartbreaking. I think I am still in shock about the verdict.”
Viol said she had been dating Michael for nearly nine years prior to his death and they share a daughter together.
“I love Brandon with all my heart,” she said. “I still do and I always will.”
Phelps’ lead defense attorney Elizabeth Baker talked to KEZI 9 News this week. Baker argued that while Phelps was guilty of having a gun and burning the car, Viol was responsible for the murder based on the evidence that she had and Viol’s inconsistent statements.
However, Viol said that is not true.
“Her pointing at me, her accusations were all false,” she said. “They anger me.”
Linda Michael, Brandon Michael’s mother, said Viol loved her son and she would never do anything to hurt him.
“I think that the defense attorney hit below the belt by attacking the victim,” she said. “There is no evidence that said Kayla did it or else they would’ve arrested her.”
However, both Michael and Viol said they’re trying to do their best to move on despite their disagreement with the verdict.
“Sometimes I find myself disappointed in our justice system,” said Viol. “I know this verdict has impacted our whole family.”