EUGENE, Ore. -- The two young men who beat a homeless man to death and left his bloody body in a city park near a children's playground last spring will spend 25 years in prison for the crime.
Judge Gregory Foote had harsh words for the two Eugene men convicted of beating Herbert Bishop, a homeless man, to death last May.
"Mr. Bishop was a human being. He had worth. People cared about him. He had friends," said Foote. "He was a welcome member of this community. You are not, at least not now."
He sentenced Ryan Casch and Michael Baughman to 300 months in prison, or 25 years, a mandatory minimum sentence under Measure 11. The sentences were part of a deal with the Lane County District's Attorney's Office, in which the defendants agreed to a stipulated facts trial last month. In a stipulated facts trial, the defendants do not admit guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict them of the crime.
Bishop's body was found underneath a tree in Skinner Butte Park in May. According to court documents, the roommates were drunk when they came across Bishop, also known as PacMan, as he bedded down for the night. They beat him to death, focusing their blows on his chest. They stole his belongings, including a pipe with marijuana, which they later smoked.
Foote said, in his 32 years on the bench, he still did not understand senseless killings.
"Animals do not do that, even in nature," said Foote.
"What strikes me about this case is the senselessness of it," said prosecutor Erik Hasselman. "Usually there is a reason, however weak."
Casch and Baughman initially said they approached Bishop because someone told them Bishop had molested a girl, but later backed off that statement, said Hasselman. Instead, the men beat Bishop to death "on a drunken whim," he said.
Casch and Baughman shook their heads, exchanging glances as Hasselman spoke.
"Alcohol was the cause of this incident," said Baughman's attorney. His client, he said," became involved with a bottle to the point it took control of his life."
Both men addressed the court before receiving their sentences.
"I want to say I'm sorry to my family, sorry for putting them through this," said Casch, whose parents and grandmother sat in the courtroom. His 16-month-old son was expected to be in court but was not, according to his attorney.
"I'm very sorry about this tragic event," said Baughman.
Eugene Police arrested Baughman and Casch in June after receiving a tip that one of them had admitted the crime to a friend. Detectives said a fingerprint found at the crime scene belonged to Casch.
The bloody dead body of Herbert Bishop, 56, known as "Pac-Man," was found in Skinner Butte Park not far from the bike path and a children's play structure on the morning of May 11, 2009.
Police arrested Baughman and Casch in June after receiving a tip that one of them had admitted the crime to a friend.
Police detective said they relied on two piece of evidence in building the case against the two, who shared a residence:
- Detectives located a person to whom Baughman had confessed the murder.
- A forensic analyst identified a crime scene fingerprint as having come from Casch.
Casch and Baughman were arrested on June 16, 2009, at their Eugene residence on Jefferson Street, not far from the park where Bishop's body was found.
Court documents show police believe the two suspects washed Bishop's blood from their hands in the Willamette River, and then returned to steal his belongings. A police affidavit said that among the goods was a pipeful of marijuana the suspects later smoked.
In October 2009, dozens of people attended a service dedicating a memorial bench to Bishop, a well-known member of the homeless community.
"To me, he was a good guy," said Keith Heath, who runs the Saint Vincent de Paul service station. "Very kind and gentle. Never a mean word to anybody that I knew of. Always kind."
Heath said Bishop came to the service station for the last year of his life.
"I think the situation is a tragic one," said Heath. "Pac-Man's family lost somebody and the people who are responsible for his murder, those families are going through it as well. It's a tragic situation all around. As a community, we can keep his memory alive by supporting our communites and keeping the other guys in our prayers."