by Sheila Gardner

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December 20, 2011
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Matlean admits Oxley murder, implicates ex-wife

Almost four years after 36-year-old Ben Oxley was shot to death in his Wildhorse home, his ex-wife's boyfriend admitted to the murder, and said Dawn Oxley conspired with him to commit the crime.

James Matlean, 24, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and conspiracy with another person to murder Melissa Oxley, the victim's wife.

Matlean told District Judge Michael Gibbons he shot Ben Oxley, but got scared and ran out the front door instead of shooting Melissa Oxley.

He was set to go on trial at the end of January.

In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Matlean faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years on the murder charge and 10 years on the conspiracy charge, to be served consecutively.

In a statement read to the court, Matlean said he was at Dawn Oxley's house on Feb. 20, 2008, taking hallucinogenic mushrooms and drinking Southern Comfort.

"Dawn came home from work early. She was very angry. As she kept drinking, she kept saying she wanted Ben dead. I told her I would do it," Matlean said.

Later that night he said Dawn Oxley asked him to kill Ben and Melissa Oxley. She drew a diagram of the house showing the location of the master bedroom.

Under questioning from Gibbons, Matlean said Dawn Oxley accompanied him to Walmart where he purchased shotgun shells for the 12-gauge shotgun which he owned.

He said when they arrived at Oxley's residence early Feb. 21, 2008, they tried to go in the front door, which was locked. They entered through a sliding-glass door and Dawn Oxley showed him where the bedroom was.

The occupants of the house - who included Oxleys' 6-year-old daughter and Melissa Oxley's 15-year-old brother - were asleep.

"I shot the gun at the back of Ben's head. Dawn went to (her 6-year-old daughter's) bedroom and wanted to take her. I told her 'no.' I told her to wait in the truck. She came back in the house, and we both ran out of the house, got in the truck and left."

Matlean said he was too scared to shoot Melissa Oxley.

Matlean said he hid the shotgun for two days before destroying the weapon.

"Did you understand what you were doing, that you were taking another person's life?" Gibbons asked.

"Yes," said Matlean.

Dawn Oxley had maintained her innocence during the murder investigation. She had a plea agreement with the district attorney's office that she would not be prosecuted for her ex-husband's murder as long as she testified truthfully against Matlean.

Prosecutor Tom Gregory said Tuesday her agreement was still in place, but under review. He declined to say whether she would be prosecuted on the conspiracy charge.

She is serving 90 months in Nevada State Prison for using her 15-year-old daughter in multiple drug transactions. She must serve 36 months before she is eligible for parole.

Gibbons said he has the final decision on what the sentence will be and set the date for March 16 or March 30.

Sentences for first-degree murder include life without parole, life with the possibility of parole after 20 years and a set sentence of 50 years with possibility of parole after 20 years.

Matlean is being held in Douglas County Jail without bail.

About two dozen people attended the hearing including Melissa Oxley, family friends and Douglas County sheriff's personnel.

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 22, 2011 07:49AM Published Dec 20, 2011 09:38PM Copyright 2011 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.