Fallen officer's former police chief, family react to parole

Wade Feldner's oldest son, Mike, took the opportunity to speak to James Moore, the man convicted of killing his father, during a parole hearing for Moore on Oct. 14. He said he was about 10 when it happened and that he always had a hard time wrapping his head around why a 14 year old would make such a decision. “Because even at 10, I knew better than that,” Mike Feldner said.

NEW PLYMOUTH — The family of a fallen police officer has provided a statement to the newspaper following coverage of a hearing last week in which the convicted murderer was granted parole.

New Plymouth Police Officer Wade Feldner was 29 at the time he was shot to death by a 14-year-old, who spent the past 27 years in prison as a result of the crime.

As of Oct. 20, James Moore is still listed as an inmate in the Idaho Department of Correction; however, he was granted parole on Oct. 14 during an Idaho Commission on Pardons and Parole hearing. One condition of his release will be that he is unable to stay in the nearby region, having to move to a parole district that encompasses the southern/south-central Idaho to serve out his parole.

In addition to reaching out for reaction to Feldner’s family members who attended the parole hearing, the newspaper sought comment from law enforcement members who were in Payette County at the time of the murder. Following is reaction from former New Plymouth Police Chief Fred Coburn.

'System failed so bad'

Coburn said Feldner was one of his best officers, describing him as “a self-starter, a real good officer and just a caring guy.”

When Coburn first became the chief, he said Feldner was working at the department hadn’t gone through the police academy yet. He recalled Feldner asking him whether he should really go through the academy.

“He said, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘Why not?’” Coburn recalled.

He said Feldner told him that all he’d ever done was milk cows and he didn’t have any formal education.

“I said, ‘That’s what I want. Somebody who is a self-starter, who can do things on their own without constant hand-holding,’” Coburn said. “He was just that kind of person that he was going to help people no matter what.”

At the time he and Feldner were working together, it was Coburn and three officers, who rotated through 12-hour shifts for four days on and four days off.

“We were all a bunch of dedicated guys, a real tight group,” Coburn said. “We were real close. I always gave them a bad time saying I had three sons at home and three sons I worked with.”

Committed to doing something good for his community, Coburn said that Feldner did all the work with the D.A.R.E program with no pay, having put a lot of time in it. At the time, the Payette County Commissioners wouldn’t provide funding for the program, Coburn noted, saying that was “pretty depressing.”

But the New Plymouth police officers decided it was a worthwhile program. Wade took classes to be trained on it and the officers held their own fundraisers and other things to get the program going. Frequently, Feldner would work a 12-hour graveyard shift then turn right around and teach the DARE program at schools. That’s what happened the day Feldner was murdered, Coburn recalled.

“The early morning when he was shot, he had worked a 12-hour graveyard shift then did dayshift at the school then came in again,” he said.

Coburn said he tried to talk Feldner into taking his next shift so the officer could go home and rest, however said that Feldner declined telling the chief, “I can do it.”

The next thing Coburn knew, Feldner wasn’t responding to officer security calls or texts after having been in communication with dispatch about the stolen care from Boise he believed he had just found.

Coburn said that he couldn’t believe Moore got paroled “that quick — especially the way his attitude was” at the time. He said that Moore got a tattoo of a tear by his eye before he was even sentenced for the crime. The marking is a common bragging right among gang members, symbolic of having killed someone. The tattoo was not visible during the recent parole hearing, during which Moore acknowledged that he and his friends were trying to emulate gang behavior at the time.

Coburn said he felt the other two youth should have been charged as accomplices in the crime, which would have been the case if they had robbed a bank he said.

“But they were just let go,” he said.

The former police chief recalled that Moore had about 40 priors — including three stolen cars in 44 hours — and never spent one day in detention.

“The system failed so bad,” Coburn said.

Asking Coburn what he thought Feldner would want the world to remember about him, the former chief propped up the fallen officer regarding his family life.

“He was just a really great guy, a family man. He did everything with his sons and was so proud of them all the time,” Coburn said.

Family reacts

Feldner’s family member provided a written statement through Chance Feldner. In it, they describe dealing with myriad complex emotions, including a renewed sense of grief due to revisiting the tragedy. The family also wishes for people to remember more than the way Feldner lost his life, such as the way he lived and the love that he left behind.

The family’s statement follows in its entirety.

“Upon learning of the decision to grant parole, we experienced a wide range of emotions. We were angry and disappointed as we believed that the parole board’s evaluation which concluded that James Moore had been rehabilitated and was thus eligible for release was irrelevant from our point of view. The harm inflicted upon our family by the murder of our loved one, Wade Feldner, is impossible to fully explain. There is a massive debt owed to our family. The reverberating depth of the suffering Moore’s actions have caused is inarticulable. 

“With his release, our family is wrestling with several complex emotions. There is undoubtedly some level of understanding and relief. Understanding — because we always knew that our desire to see him in prison for the rest of his life likely would not be shared by those who were not directly emotionally impacted by his crime. Relief — because we would not have to suffer through another parole hearing as both times the process has found a way to make a pain which had long ago become aching and dull somehow feel sharp and new. Most of all, however, the overarching emotion with which we deal remains the same: a deep, foundational pain. Although the foundation of the life we have collectively built is made up of many things, first and foremost a love and respect for one another, sadly, pain and anger is also one of the foundational elements of our lives and has been so for the past 27 years. 

“While Moore will soon have the freedom to turn the page and put this all behind him, our family will never have that luxury. Every milestone in our lives, while happy and celebrated, is also an occasion for sadness as there is always a very important person who should be there, but isn’t. In the life ahead for Moore, every milestone should be an occasion for immense guilt and shame. Your freedom is not deserved.  

“As many before, this is another occasion for us to celebrate the life and memory of an amazing man: Wade Feldner. You will be forever in our hearts and your incredible legacy lives on through your four sons and many others who will never forget the man you were and the sacrifices you made for the betterment of our family and our community.  We encourage everybody to remember more than just the way Wade Feldner lost his life. Instead, choose to remember the way that he lived and the love that he left behind him in this world.”

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