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Myrtle Creek man found not guilty of murder, sentenced on other charges

Officials said Phelps killed Brandon Michael in May 2017 while he was panning for gold in the Lawson Bar area of the South Umpqua River with his girlfriend, Kayla Viol.

Posted: Dec 2, 2020 7:41 PM

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- Troy Russell Phelps, 38, was found not guilty last week after he was accused of shooting and killing another man more than three years ago.

Officials said in May 2017, Phelps killed Brandon Michael, who was panning for gold in the Lawson Bar area of the South Umpqua River with his girlfriend, Kayla Viol.

Phelps also reportedly burned down Michael and Viol’s car shortly after the incident.

Last week, Phelps was acquitted of first-degree murder after a 10-week-long trial. However, he was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on one count of felon possession of a firearm and reckless burning.

Phelps’ lead defense attorney Elizabeth Baker said Viol was the state’s key witness. However, she said all of Viol’s statements were inconsistent from the day of the incident to the end of the trial, which Baker used to her advantage.

“I argued that the evidence was much more compelling and that’s why she was inconsistent,” she said.

She said Phelps was guilty of carrying the firearm at the time of the incident. She said Phelps was also guilty of reckless burning for burning down Viol and Michael’s car.

However, she said she didn’t think that was Phelps’ intention.

“I argued to the court that she directed him to get those things and she directed him to burn that car,” said Baker.

KEZI 9 News reached out to the Douglas County District Attorney, but they did not get back to us.

We also reached out to Viol's and Michael’s families, but they were unable to comment at this time.

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