051119-adh-nws-Eric Rodriguez-Najar-my

Eric Rodriguez-Najar appears in Linn County Circuit Court on Wednesday, when he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and no contest to first-degree assault. On Friday, he was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison for the shooting death of Mary Taylor, and for shooting his ex-girlfriend, Lani Taylor.

Mary Taylor saw the best in everyone, and for Eric Rodriguez-Najar, she was like a mother, prosecutor Michael Paul said.

On Friday in Linn County Circuit Court, Rodriguez-Najar was sentenced to 17½ years in prison for the shooting death of Taylor, and for shooting his ex-girlfriend, Lani Taylor.

Rodriguez-Najar, 38, was initially charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and no contest to first-degree assault at an earlier hearing held on Wednesday. Charges of unlawful use of a weapon – firearm, and fourth-degree assault were dismissed per terms of the negotiated settlement.

The killing in Southeast Albany on Feb. 28 occurred during a domestic dispute over the end of Rodriguez-Najar’s relationship with Lani Taylor, Mary Taylor’s daughter and the mother of his three children.

Mary Taylor, 59, had moved out of her home and into an RV on her property so that her daughter’s family could live in her house.

Rodriguez-Najar had discovered that Lani Taylor was seeing another man and got very upset, Paul said.

He had drank several glasses of wine before confronting Lani Taylor, Paul said. At some point during the arguments, Rodriguez-Najar went into the bathroom of the house and pulled out a pistol, which Paul said reportedly was pointed between Mary Taylor and her daughter.

Paul said that Rodriguez-Najar told authorities he was trying to scare Lani Taylor and her mother. Lani Taylor also told police she didn’t think Rodriguez-Najar was trying to kill them.

“A big argument between the state and defense would have been how the gun went off,” Paul said.

Mary Taylor was shot five times. Lani Taylor was shot through the arm and the bullet lodged in her back, where it remains, Paul said.

In the immediate aftermath, Rodriguez-Najar called family members and told them he didn’t mean to shoot Mary Taylor.

He talked about committing suicide, and Lani Taylor tried to persuade him not to. About 45 minutes after Mary Taylor died, police arrived at her house.

Angela Rodriguez, Mary Taylor’s daughter, held a framed photograph of her mother during Friday’s sentencing hearing.

“Our lives have been devastated by this senseless and reckless crime,” she told Judge DeAnn Novotny.

“She was the most amazing and caring woman for anyone who came across her path, including Eric,” Rodriguez said.

Ryan Taylor, Mary Taylor’s son, said he felt the sentence wasn’t enough, and added that his mother’s death was extremely difficult to deal with. He said she was the person he would go to for advice when he was having problems.

“I would do anything just to hear her voice one more time,” he added.

He said Rodriguez-Najar had been violent in the past and would be violent in the future, and Lani Taylor would be the person he’d most likely hurt.

Defense attorney John Rich said his client still considered everyone in the courtroom to be his family, even if that sentiment wasn’t reciprocated.

“Obviously, he wishes he could take his actions back. … She was basically his mother,” Rich said.

Rodriguez-Najar addressed the court and said it was painful every day to deal with the aftermath of the shooting. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion.

Novotny told Taylor’s family that such situations are difficult to cope with. “It’s a tragedy. There is nothing this court could ever do to make it right,” she said.

“This conduct was really unforgivable,” Novotny told Rodriguez-Najar.

But she added that it sounded like Mary Taylor’s legacy was that she would want forgiveness, even for the man who killed her.

Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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