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Man convicted of 1995 Devils Lake murder denied new trial

DEVILS LAKE, N.D.--A man who murdered a clerk in a Devils Lake convenience store more than 20 years ago will not get a new trial on the argument he was misinformed on when he would be eligible for parole from a life sentence, the North Dakota Sup...

DEVILS LAKE, N.D.-A man who murdered a clerk in a Devils Lake convenience store more than 20 years ago will not get a new trial on the argument he was misinformed on when he would be eligible for parole from a life sentence, the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

Marlon Leon Comes, 35, pleaded guilty to Class AA murder and Class A robbery, both felonies, in August 1996, for fatally shooting Donald Jerome on Dec. 14, 1995, in the Devils Lake Superpumper. Comes, who was 14 years old at the time of the murder, entered the store with Adrian Alex, 38, and Wayne Greywater, 39, with a sawed-off shotgun with intent to commit robbery, according to the Ramsey County State's Attorney's Office.

While Jerome, a clerk at the Superpumper, was lying on the ground, Comes shot him in the back of the head with the shotgun, according to a news release.

Greywater and Alex pleaded guilty to murder and Class B felony robbery and were sentenced to 50 years prison. Alex had 26 years suspended and will be released from prison Sept. 19. Greywater had 25 years suspended and will be released April 4, 2018. Comes was sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole in 2041.

But Comes filed a motion for a new trial, arguing he had been misinformed about the date of his parole eligibility, according to court documents. He said he was told he would be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of 30 years in prison, or in late 2021. The North Dakota Parole Board told him in September 2014 he was eligible after serving 85 percent of his life expectancy of about 74 years, according to the release.

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A district court dismissed Comes' motion as untimely because the two-year statute of limitation had elapsed on his claims. The Supreme Court agreed, stating in a unanimous decision on Thursday that the "newly discovered evidence" of finding out Comes was misinformed about his parole eligibility "does not apply when the content of the letter does not establish the petitioner did not engage in criminal conduct for which he was convicted."

In other words, the findings of misinformation about eligibility for parole does not change the fact Comes pleaded guilty to the crime and does not change his sentence, and that is not enough to ask for a new trial, State's Attorney Lonnie Olson said.

This isn't the first time Comes has asked for a new trial. A motion he filed in 1999 arguing ineffective assistance of counsel was denied by the state Supreme Court in 2000.

Related Topics: RAMSEY COUNTY
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