MINDEN - More than two years after a 36-year-old Johnson Lane man was shot to death in his bed, deputies arrested the 23-year-old roommate of the victim's ex-wife.
Sheriff Ron Pierini said James Matlean, 23, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder. He is being held without bail in the Douglas County Jail where he had been serving an eight-month sentence for a probation violation in an unrelated offense.
Matlean is to be arraigned Friday in the murder of Benjamin Oxley who was shot to death early Feb. 21, 2008.
The sheriff said he could not speculate about motive or disclose the evidence which lead investigators to Matlean. He could not confirm if the victim's ex-wife Dawn Oxley, 37, was a suspect.
"There was a personal relationship between James Matlean and Dawn Oxley," Pierini said. "To the best of my knowledge, he was living with her at the time of the murder."
"We are still looking for other suspects who may be involved," Pierini said. "We're asking the public for help. The investigation never stops."
Deputies were called to Benjamin Oxley's home at 2800 Wildhorse Lane in the Johnson Lane area at 3:30 a.m. Feb. 21, 2008, and found him dead of a shotgun wound to the head. His wife and then 6-year-old daughter were at the residence as well as his wife's teenage brother who was living with the family.
Dawn Oxley told The Record-Courier in an interview the day of her ex-husband's death she hadn't seen him for weeks.
She said their only contact had been to arrange visitation with their daughter.
"I try to avoid him," she said. "He's my ex-husband and we didn't have a wonderful life together."
They met in 1997, married in 1999 and divorced in 2004, she said.
According to reports, Benjamin Oxley did not have a criminal record, but was contacted in a June 2007 domestic battery investigation involving Dawn Oxley. The incident was classified as a mutual domestic battery. No charges were filed and both parties agreed to leave each other alone.
Pierini said Oxley's family had been contacted about Matlean's arrest.
"The investigation has been going on for some time. A lot of people may have thought we were not diligently working on it. There was a lack of evidence, but the investigation never went away," he said. "A minimum of two investigators were assigned to the case at all times while working on other cases."
At one point, there was a Secret Witness reward of up to $33,000 for the arrest and conviction of Oxley's killer. As time passed, the amount dwindled to $2,500 which is still active.
"We made sure we were doing anything we could to solve this case. It's been a major agenda in this department," Pierini said. "The investigators put their heart and soul into it."
Pierini credited Capt. Dan Britton, Sgts. Mark Munoz and Ron Elges and Investigators Jeff Schemenauer and Jon Storke.
"It's been hard on them," he said. "We'd liked to have resolved it faster, but we never gave up and it paid off."
Matlean has had several contacts with law enforcement including three felony convictions by age 19.
In 2004, he was kicked out of a regimental discipline program for young offenders and sentenced to 12-36 months in Nevada State Prison for grand larceny of a motor vehicle.
He currently is in Douglas County Jail nearing the end of an eight-month sentence for stealing four cartons of cigarettes from a Gardnerville convenience story in April 2009.
Dawn Oxley served six months in Douglas County Jail in October 2009 after she lost her probation for a second conviction of driving under the influence.
She told East Fork Judge Jim EnEarl she had been using alcohol as an escape since her ex-husband's murder.
YOU CAN HELP
The 2008 murder of Benjamin Oxley remains under investigation. Anyone with information about the Feb. 21, 2008, killing is asked to contact Investigator Jon Storke at 782-9909 or Secret Witness, 782-7463.