Driver pleads guilty in homicide case

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WALLA WALLA -- A man who was caught giving homicide suspect George Craigen a ride from Umatilla County on Jan. 1 pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court to two gross misdemeanors.

Jason T. Stiller, 41, of 85205 Highway 339, Milton-Freewater, entered the guilty pleas to second-degree rendering criminal assistance and driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He didn't admit guilt, but acknowledged there is a factual basis for the pleas.

Stiller had been accused of first-degree rendering criminal assistance, which is a felony. But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden said in an interview he agreed to reduce the charge in a plea agreement because if Stiller had gone to trial, it would have been difficult to prove he knew he was giving a ride to a wanted fugitive.

Stiller had nothing to do with the killing, Golden added.

When Stiller is sentenced, he faces up to a year in jail on each charge to which he pleaded guilty. Golden is recommending a time-served sentence.

Based on tips to law enforcement, Stiller's pickup was pulled over New Year's afternoon at the PDQ Food Mart, 506 S. Ninth Ave., in Walla Walla. Stiller was driving while intoxicated and Craigen was in the passenger seat, officials said.

Stiller was booked into the Walla Walla County Jail, but was ordered released with conditions Jan. 19 pending the outcome of his case.

Meanwhile, Craigen, 49, of 52848 Stephens Road, Milton-Freewater, faces a 12-count Umatilla County Grand Jury indictment on charges ranging from murder with a firearm to five counts of possessing a destructive device.

He is suspected of gunning down his neighbor, Cecil "Rob" Carter, on Dec. 30 at Carter's plumbing contractor business next to his home.

Carter, 58, was pronounced dead a short time later at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

The homicide sparked a massive search of nearby hills for Craigen, but he eluded capture until he was pulled over in Stiller's vehicle.

Craigen was held in the Walla Walla County Jail until Feb. 23 when he was extradited to Umatilla County.

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