Rebecca Machain, who was a 15-year-old Sutherlin High School sophomore back in 2004 when she shot and killed her 14-year-old nephew while he was playing video games, was released from prison Tuesday following clemency granted by Gov. Kate Brown.
Machain shot Troy Anderson to cover up the theft of $700 dollars stolen from Anderson’s mom, who is Machain’s sister. At the time, Machain was living with her sister, and Anderson also lived in the Sutherlin home.
Machain’s best friend, Kelly Irwin, also a 15-year-old Sutherlin High School student at the time, gave Machain her father’s gun and was also at the scene when the shooting occurred. Irwin was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.
Machain was convicted of murder in 2006 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. However, she appealed her conviction on the grounds that she agreed to an interview with Sutherlin police, in which she admitted to the crime, without fully understanding her rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney.
In December 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with Machain and remanded her case back to Douglas County Circuit Judge Ronald Poole, who presided over the trial. Poole ruled that Machain’s confession should stand and reinstated her conviction.
Machain eventually connected with the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, a program run out of the law school at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Aliza Kaplan, professor of lawyering and director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, confirmed that Gov. Brown commuted Machain’s sentence. Machain, now 31, was released from Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.
“We were extremely pleased that the governor recognized all of her incredible hard work and transformation and we know that she’ll make an incredible impact on her community moving forward,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan said she could not discuss the specifics of the case without Machain’s permission, which Machain declined to give.
Kaplan added that the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic has helped “dozens and dozens” of inmates navigate their way through the clemency process.
“At all of the prisons we work, there is no shortage of people who deserve to be released early,” Kaplan said. “I have stacks of letters from people who want us to represent them. But we’re a pretty small operation and we don’t have the resources to help everyone that deserves it.”
Liz Merah, a spokesperson for the governor, said Brown evaluates clemency applications on a case-by-case basis and considers a variety of factors about the applicant’s history when making those decisions.
“Information is provided from law enforcement, prosecutors, and prison officials during the review process,” Merah said Thursday. “In commuting the remaining term of Ms. Machain’s incarceration, Governor Brown cited her prison record of good behavior, engagement in prison programming and work assignments, pursuit of education, and her work as a peer recovery mentor. The governor also considered Ms. Machain’s youth at the time of the crime and the fact that the victim’s mother supported the commutation.”
Machain survived a traumatic childhood, according to court documents. She grew up in Los Angeles with her mother and younger brother, and the three were often homeless.
Machain came to live with her sister in Sutherlin four years before the murder. Wendy Hacker’s son, who was the victim, and Hacker’s boyfriend also lived in the home. By all accounts Machain did well in Sutherlin, making friends and getting better than average grades in school, court records show.
Changing storiesOn Sept. 30, 2004, Hacker arrived home from work not long before 3 p.m. to find the home ransacked and her son slumped over in a chair in the garage, bleeding and barely alive. He was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center, where he died a short time later from a single gunshot to the back of his head.
When Sutherlin police arrived at the scene they found that in addition to papers and belongings being strewn about, a safe had been opened and its contents apparently removed. No guns or ammunition was found in the home, but police did later recover a spent .40 caliber shell casing and a projectile in the area where Anderson’s body was found.
During a series of interviews over the next couple of days, Machain told detectives that she and Kelly Irwin had planned to steal the money from the safe, using a key that Machain knew was kept in her sister’s purse.
Machain and Irwin got worried that they would be caught, so they decided to mess up the house to make it look like an intruder had broken in. They threw the safe on the bed, removed a jewelry box and took the jewelry, opened drawers and scattered CDs throughout a front room.
Machain and Irwin initially told authorities that a male friend was with them at the time and that he was the one who shot Anderson, but both girls later admitted that they had made that story up to avoid getting caught.
As Machain began to disclose more about what really happened to police, her best friend, Kelly Irwin, was doing the same.
The day after the incident police went to Irwin’s home and spoke to her and her parents, and later searched the home. During that time Kelly Irwin admitted that she had taken her father’s .40 caliber gun, which was the same weapon used to shoot Anderson. Police also found $700 that was stuffed into a sock in Irwin’s bedroom dresser, money that Irwin admitted was taken from the safe belonging to Machain’s sister.
Ultimately, Machain admitted to the shooting. She told detectives that she and Irwin were afraid that Anderson would tell about the stolen money, so they decided to shoot him with the gun belonging to Irwin’s father that she had taken from their home.
The two walked into the garage in the home, which served as a den, and found Anderson sitting in a chair in front of the TV and playing a baseball video game. Irwin handed the gun to Machain, and then hit Anderson with the baseball bat, Machain told detectives. Machain also told authorities that she did not want Anderson to suffer, so she shot him as he was sitting in the chair.
Machain told authorities that she closed her eyes when she pulled the trigger. She said she knew she shot Anderson, but did not want to walk over to him to check.
Machain was arrested on Oct. 2, 2004, and taken to the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center. She remained incarcerated from that day until Tuesday.
Managing Editor Ian Campbell contributed to this story.