Trial begins in killing of Justin Eilers

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Trial begins in 2008 killing of Boise professional fighter
The defense says Nampa man was afraid when he shot his angry stepson on Christmas night.

James R. Malec appeared in January 2009 before Canyon County magistrate judge Gregory Frates. Malec has been charged with the second-degree murder of his 30-year-old stepson, mixed martial arts fighter Justin Mark Eilers of Boise.

The courtroom was silent, but Gwen Moore’s words were barely audible Tuesday as she haltingly described the night her husband shot and killed her son while she stood nearby.

Her son, mixed martial arts fighter Justin Eilers, had been yelling and combative at a family gathering, breaking items and challenging Moore’s husband, James Malec, she said. She tried to usher Eilers out of her Nampa kitchen and thought he was going to go outside and cool off.

“I thought it was over,” Moore said. “I turned to the side, then I felt the shot go past my ear.

“I turned toward Jim and said, ‘What did you do?’

“Justin had a surprised look on his face. He said, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead. I love you, Mom.”

When she looked back at her husband, she said, he was still pointing his semi-automatic, .45-caliber pistol at Justin – “and at me, because I was standing right there. … He told me to get out of the way.”

Moore was the first witness in her husband’s second-degree murder trial Tuesday afternoon. Throughout her testimony, she did not look at Malec except when asked to identify him in the courtroom. Malec, 49, sat solemnly at the defense table, wearing a sport jacket and tie.

“Justin Eilers bled to death and died on the floor just outside his mother’s kitchen,” Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor David Christensen told the newly selected jury of six men and eight women (including two alternates). “He was shot in the chest, just right of center, and the bullet came out of his back and ended up in the wall of the other room.”

The Christmas-night dispute began with an argument between Eilers and his ex-girlfriend about the upbringing of their 8-year-old son, and Eilers was still intensely angry when he returned to the kitchen where his mother and stepfather were cleaning up after dinner, Christensen said. Both Eilers and Malec had been drinking, Moore said.

The killing was intentional and without justification, Christensen said, telling the jury that Malec “used a degree of force that was in excess of what was reasonably necessary.”

But defense attorney Gordon Petrie stressed the 30-year-old Eilers’ size – 6 feet 2 inches and about 230 pounds – and prowess as a mixed martial arts fighter. Malec, who previously had gotten along well with his stepson, had never seen Eilers enraged before that night and was surprised and confused by the younger man’s fury, he said.

Petrie said when Moore was trying to push Eilers out of the kitchen, Malec thought Eilers hit Moore – something Moore denies. Malec, a former military policeman and Canyon County jail deputy, was carrying his semi-automatic handgun at the time and reacted to what he saw as a threat to himself and his family.

“The evidence will show that Justin Eilers scared James Malec so much that he thought he was going to die. And he had a choice to make,” Petrie said. “From his perspective, the only other choice was to become a sacrifice.”

The prosecution’s case against Malec is expected to conclude Wednesday, at which point the defense will be able to present witnesses.

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