WALLA WALLA -- A man who was caught giving a homicide suspect a ride from Umatilla County on Jan. 1 will have to return to the Walla Walla County Jail to fulfill a sentence handed down Monday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court.
Jason T. Stiller, 42, of 85205 Highway 339, Milton-Freewater, was ordered to serve a nine-month jail term. But he was given credit for the time he spent from his arrest to Jan. 19 when he was released on conditions pending the outcome of his case.
In a plea agreement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden was recommending Stiller not have to serve any additional time.
But Judge Donald W. Schacht rejected that, saying a nine-month term was justified.
Stiller is supposed to turn himself in Wednesday morning. Schacht said he might consider at some point allowing Stiller -- who has a variety of jobs -- to be released during work hours.
Schacht also placed Stiller on a year of probation.
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 homicide suspect George Craigen was in the passenger seat, officials said.
Craigen is charged with gunning down his neighbor, Cecil "Rob" Carter, 58, two days earlier at Carter's plumbing contractor business next to his home.
The murder sparked a massive search of nearby hills for Craigen, but he eluded capture until he was pulled over in Stiller's vehicle.
Stiller pleaded guilty March 12 to two gross misdemeanors -- second-degree rendering criminal assistance and driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, each of which carries a maximum of a year in jail. He didn't admit guilt but acknowledged there is a factual basis for the pleas.
Stiller initially was charged with felony rendering criminal assistance, but Golden agreed to reduce the charge because at a trial it would have been difficult to prove Stiller knew he was giving a ride to a wanted fugitive.
Before Schacht imposed the sentence Monday, Stiller apologized and said he hopes to regain respect that he has lost in the community.
His attorney, Jim Barrett, added, "He has a drinking problem and is easily pushed by people."
Although Stiller reportedly encountered Craigen at Stiller's home just hours before they were apprehended at the PDQ, Carter's daughters were asking for a year-long sentence for Stiller.
Local attorney William McCool, speaking on their behalf, told Schacht the family "was extremely traumatized" while Craigen was at large and "didn't know who might be next."
In the end, Schacht ruled a 12-month sentence isn't justified. He said Carter's murder was "a very serious crime" and a "very tragic and unfortunate" situation.
"But we still have to remember that Mr. Stiller didn't commit the crime," Schacht said.
Craigen, 49, of 52848 Stephens Road, Milton-Freewater, is facing a 12-count Umatilla County Grand Jury indictment on charges ranging from murder with a firearm to five counts of unlawful possession of a destructive device.
He was held in the Walla Walla County Jail until Feb. 23 when he was extradited to Umatilla County.
Terry McConn can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8319.