A 31-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for brutally killing his sleeping uncle in early 2020.
Idaho 4th District Judge Jason D. Scott sentenced Emerson Clyde Buck IV to life in prison, with a minimum of 40 years served before he’s eligible for parole. Buck was sentenced on the charge of first-degree murder, with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime.
An additional sentence of one year in jail was meted out for a charge of resisting or obstructing an officer, with Buck being credited for time served to cover that. He also was ordered to pay $2,775 in restitution for forensic expenses incurred by the state and for funeral expenses related to his uncle’s burial.
In May, a jury found Buck guilty of murder in the death of James Buck, who was killed on Jan. 19, 2020. Buck was living with his parents and uncle in a two-bedroom trailer in Garden City at the time, according to Scott’s account of the case at sentencing.
Buck maintained his innocence, but the jury found him guilty of stabbing his relative repeatedly in the neck and back while he slept.
Scott noted in court that on the night of the killing, Buck’s mother awoke to thumping sounds and someone yelling “never do that again.” Entering a bedroom, she found her brother alone, bleeding out.
Around an hour later, police found Clyde Buck in a neighborhood with blood on his clothing and wounds on his hands that were consistent with his hand “slipping down the blade of the knife,” Scott said. DNA samples of the blood matched it with James Buck.
“From the evidence presented, I don’t have any doubt that you did commit the crimes of which you are accused,” Scott said on Friday at the Ada County Courthouse. He added that while the state’s case was “overwhelming,” Buck’s decision to fashion a “fanciful explanation” for what had happened, which included the suggestion that someone else had entered the home and killed James Buck, displeased the judge.
“One of the reasons that rehabilitation plays a fairly limited role in this sentence is because you do not accept that you’re responsible for this, to the degree that even now you’re floating theories for what happened that just don’t make any sense,” Scott said.
The judge said a motive for the killing is still “elusive,” but evidence presented at trial suggested that the two men shared use of a bed, and whoever arrived at it first got to sleep there for the night.
“One is left to wonder if the fact that he got there first that night is what set you off,” Scott said.
Buck was arrested on an initial charge of second-degree murder and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an officer. The first charge was changed to first-degree murder, according to court records.
In 2008, when Buck was 17, a court found him guilty of statutory rape in a case involving a 13-year-old girl, according to Scott. Buck was charged as an adult in that case, and he served a 10-year sentence, according to Idaho court and Department of Correction records. He is a registered sex offender, according to the Idaho State Police sex offender registry.
On Friday, prosecutor Whitney Welsh emphasized Buck’s previous infractions and emotional issues, which she said had a bearing on his danger to the community and his potential for rehabilitation.
Since the murder case began, Buck has been cited for 22 incidents of discipline, Welsh said, which included escaping restraints, failing to comply with orders, threatening deputies, damaging jail property, and urinating in a conference room during an attorney visit.
Buck’s lead defense attorney, Nicholas Gene Alexander, said during his argument at sentencing that his client’s disciplinary record had improved in recent months and that his family did not want Buck to be imprisoned for life.
During Friday’s hearing, Buck’s aunt gave a victim-impact statement, calling the effects of the crime “extremely far-reaching.” Still, she said she did not want to see her nephew sent away for his entire life.
“For (Buck) to go away forever would be just as tragic as for Jimmy to go away forever,” she said. “I hope that you understand both sides of our hearts.”
In a statement before sentencing, Clyde Buck said through tears that “I can’t say that I’m innocent because I did have a role in what happened to my uncle.” He asked for forgiveness from his family and leniency from the judge.
In a concluding statement, Scott said that Buck’s danger to the community was the primary factor in his sentence.
“You’ve done something so serious and so brutal that there is an imperative to keep you out of circulation for a substantial period of time,” Scott said.