Alcohol and anger fueled a Christmas-night family argument in rural Nampa that ended with a professional fighter shot dead and a former jailer behind bars, investigators say.
James Robert Malec, 48, is in the Canyon County jail on $1 million bond, charged with the second-degree murder of his 30-year-old stepson, mixed martial arts fighter Justin Mark Eilers of Boise. Malec was a deputy at the Canyon County jail during the late 1990s.
Both men had been drinking socially during a holiday gathering at the Happy Valley Road home of Malec and his wife, who is Eilers' mother, Sheriff's Lt. Marv Dashiell said Monday. Discord began with a parenting argument between Eilers and the mother of his young son, then escalated with a confrontation between Malec and Eilers over the younger man's "loud and boisterous behavior," Dashiell said.
There is no indication the two men's fight turned physical before Eilers was shot, he said, but Eilers' mother, Gwen Moore, told investigators that her son repeatedly swept items off the kitchen counter, scattering broken glass around. He was upset, she said, about people teasing his son. She "described her son as very violent when he has been drinking," according to the probable cause affidavit for Malec's murder charge.
Here's what Moore said happened next, according to the affidavit:
"Justin got into Gwen's face and she was telling him to be quiet. James told Justin to back down but he wouldn't and challenged James to a fight by saying, 'come on, come on fight me, bring it on, what do you got.'
"She said she was trying to get Justin to back off of James. Justin backed up a little bit but was still loud. Gwen said she didn't see James pull the gun, but assumed he had one with him because he carries one all the time."
The affidavit also includes comments from Eilers' former girlfriend, who said Malec had told her before that he would shoot Eilers if he caused problems in his house.
Someone at the house called 911 at 10:46 p.m. to report a domestic fight, and Eilers was shot while the caller was still on the phone with the dispatcher and deputies were on the way, Dashiell said. One deputy reported that when he got there, Malec was lying face-down on the bottom step of his porch with his hands behind his back.
Eilers suffered a single bullet wound just above his right nipple; the weapon was a large-caliber handgun, Dashiell said. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene about 11:36 p.m.
One of the responding deputies knew Malec from his tenure with the sheriff's office and reported Malec "told me that he was sorry we had to meet like this again and to get the medics here to help Justin."
Malec worked as a jail deputy and dog handler for the Canyon County Sheriff's Office from April 1996 to July 2000, Dashiell said. He operated a dog-obedience business with his wife at their home, Dashiell said.
Eilers was a 1996 graduate of Nampa High School and former linebacker for Iowa State University who went on to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter. He appeared in 27 MMA fights, including some with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.