Former Titan Star Niles Could Receive Death Penalty in Wife’s Killing

Mike Niles, former National Basketball Assn. player and Cal State Fullerton star, has been convicted of killing his wife and could face the death penalty when he is sentenced next week.

Niles, 33, of Corona, was drafted and waived by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1979. He signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent in 1980 and remained with the club until waived a year later.

Niles showed no emotion as he heard the verdict Tuesday in Riverside County Superior Court.

Jurors deliberated 13 hours before finding that Niles conspired with Noel Jackson of Los Angeles to murder Sonja Niles Dec. 13, 1984. She died of a shotgun blast to the head from close range.


Monday, a separate jury convicted Jackson of murder.

The prosecution contended that Niles arranged to pay Jackson $5,000 to kill Sonja Niles, after collecting $100,000 from a life insurance policy.

Both men accused the other of the murder.

A witness testified that Niles stated he wanted his wife killed because she “messed me out” of money from basketball.

The jury found a special circumstance of murder for financial gain, so the death penalty could be imposed.

During 3 years at Cal State Fullerton, Niles, a forward, averaged 12.4 points per game. He was a member of Fullerton’s 1977-78 team that reached the NCAA West Regional final.