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Man Granted Plea in Father’s Killing

November 14, 2007

By Malaika Fraley, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Nov. 14–WALNUT CREEK — A 30-year-old man who shot and killed his abusive father at the family’s Moraga home in 1998 pleaded no contest Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter.

Jason Kish faces a 16-year prison sentence for the death of 46-year-old Rodney “Big Kim” Kish, an Oakland native who ran a pest control business.

Kish was scheduled to start his third trial on charges of first-degree murder Tuesday morning when Superior Court Judge Richard Arnason accepted a plea agreement amending the first-degree murder charge to voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm, according to the district attorney’s office.

Kish’s first trial ended in a mistrial in 2004 after Arnason ruled that the prosecutor improperly questioned a witness. His second trial, in 2005, ended in a hung jury, with jurors voting 11-1 in favor of conviction.

Prosecutors said that on April 4, 1998, Jason Kish drove to Moraga from the San Diego naval base, where he was stationed, after hearing that his father had beat up his mother. Jason Kish shot Rodney Kish in the head with a .22-caliber gun as he slept. Jason Kish’s mother, Leslie, reported his death the following day.

The coroner’s office initially reported that the 375-pound father likely died of aortic embolism. The medical examiner discovered during an autopsy that he died from a single bullet that traveled from the back of his face through a nostril.

Eight months later, police arrested Jason Kish, then 21, and his mother on suspicion of murder

and conspiracy, alleging that the pair planned the patriarch’s death to rid their lives of his violence and inherit his business and insurance benefits.

Rodney Kish was convicted of battery in 1995 for beating his wife with a cane and served 90 days in jail and three years’ probation. Leslie Kish had taken out several restraining orders against him that said he physically and verbally abused her and their three children.

During a preliminary hearing, Leslie Kish was cleared of all charges, and the conspiracy charge against Jason Kish was dismissed for lack of evidence. She declined to comment on Tuesday’s events.

Defense attorneys, who could not be reached Tuesday, argued at the trials that the case against Jason Kish was built on circumstantial evidence, and that police had botched the investigation.

Police linked him to the case partly because of a speeding ticket he received driving south through Los Angeles County the day the death was reported. Jason Kish had told police he was in San Diego County that day.

Jason Kish has been free on $1 million bail since his arrest nearly 10 years ago. He is scheduled to turn himself in to the sheriff’s office Jan. 4 and will be formally sentenced Jan. 7.

Moraga police Lt. Robert Priebe, who testified at Kish’s preliminary hearing and both of his trials, said he was satisfied that the plea agreement would finally put the case to bed.

“It guarantees that he’ll be off the streets for a long time, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Reach Malaika Fraley at 925-945-4782 or mfraley@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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Copyright (c) 2007, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

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