Parole denied to Highway Sniper, convicted in 1989

By on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 in Columbia Basin News Regional News

SALEM – James T. Birchard of Hermiston has been denied bail by the Oregon State Board of Parole. He was convicted in 1989 on attempted murder charges after he fired on people or vehicles with the intent to rob them.

Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson was notified of last week’s parole hearing. He was only 8 years old when the crimes were committed and knew nothing about the case, but decided to study up based on the opinions of prison officials.

“They said he still as a tendency for violence if he thinks he’s been wronged, and doesn’t have an issue with violence if it solves his problems,” Nelson said. “I’m happy to say that his parole was denied.”

Normally in parole hearings, the inmate expresses regret and tells the parole board about life-altering changes. That was not the course Birchard took.

“He says he didn’t do those crimes, that he was trying to shoot somebody else,” Nelson said.

Birchard told the board that he had thought he was shooting at his ex-wife and her boyfriend whom he held responsible for the death of his son. He flatly denied any other shootings, saying both law enforcement and the judge were out to get him.

Birchard was accused of shooting at an Irrigon man who was walking his dog along the Columbia River west of Boardman on Dec. 27, 1988. In Umatilla County he was charged with shooting at two vehicles on that same day, and then shooting at more than 12 vehicles in late December and early January with the intent of causing accidents and robbing those in the cars.

He will be up for parole again in two years.