Public Safety

Central City man convicted of killing friend dies while serving 30 years

Martin Wilkinson (left), seated with his attorney Kjas Long, listens to the judge before pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon at Linn County District Court on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Martin Wilkinson (left), seated with his attorney Kjas Long, listens to the judge before pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon at Linn County District Court on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A 70-year-old Central City man, who fatally shot his friend in the back in 2012, died last week while serving his prison term at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Martin Paul Wilkinson died of natural causes Friday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he had been admitted because of chronic illness.

Wilkinson, originally charged with first-degree murder, was sentenced in November 2013 to 30 years for voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon with penalty enhancement because of three prior felony convictions.

Wilkinson shot his friend, Gregory O’Hare, 47, with an Astra A-7 handgun eight times during a fight Aug. 24, 2012, according to testimony during hearings. Five of those were shot in O’Hare’s back.

Witnesses discovered O’Hare’s body in a rural area a short distance from Wilkinson’s home. Witnesses also told police they heard gunshots the day before.

Before Wilkinson was taken into custody that day, he was involved in a five-hour standoff with authorities, according to court documents.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, during the sentencing in 2013, said Wilkinson killed O’Hare without justification and then he tied his body to an ATV with bungee cord in attempt to move and hide the body. But the cord broke, and he left his friend’s body in the road.

“He treated the body like a bag of trash,” Vander Sanden said.

Wilkinson was prohibited from having firearms because of his 13 previous convictions, including three felonies. But police recovered 37 weapons from his home and a “stockpile” of ammunition, Vander Sanden said at sentencing.

Wilkinson declined to make a statement at sentencing.

During his plea hearing, Wilkinson said he was “in fear of my life” before shooting O’Hare. He claimed it was self-defense because O’Hare was reaching for a rifle during the fight.

William O’Hare, Gregory’s father, in a victim impact statement at sentencing, said losing his son was “like a bad dream.”

O’Hare’s mother, Janet O’Hare, in a statement, said she kept reliving the day her son was shot eight times. She thought about how her son’s body was left out in the road all night after being shot and how “nobody was there when he died.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com