Murdered Oregon Pawn Broker Cut Kids Out of Will, Left $10M Estate to Feds, One of Whom Sent Him to Prison


Eight months before he was found shot to death in the bedroom of his $2 million riverfront mansion, Jimmy Pearson drafted a new will.

He cut out his two daughters. In their place, he named a pair of unlikely beneficiaries: the former federal prosecutor who once helped send him to prison and another federal prosecutor who later did legal work for Pearson. Both lawyers had befriended Pearson over the years.

It was a strange twist in the case of the local pawn shop owner who was killed March 1 by a woman who worked as a prostitute.

Nistasha Tate, 24, pleaded guilty Thursday in Clackamas County Circuit Court to murder and was sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible to pursue parole in 25 years.

As investigators built a criminal case against Tate this year, a separate legal fight over Pearson’s $10 million estate played out quietly in the background.

Pearson owned A-1 Hawk, a chain of pawn shops with two storefronts in the Portland area. He lived in a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom estate with a spa and home theater along the Willamette River in Milwaukie.

Pearson, 63, was a bon vivant, his friends and family said, who loved Las Vegas, jet skiing and, according to his obituary, “extra lime in his drinks.” He was generous and gregarious, they said, and doted on his four grandchildren.

His daughters, Tawnya Pearson, 33, and Sarah Pearson, 36, challenged their father’s 2020 will, alleging in probate records that Jimmy Pearson wasn’t himself when he picked the lawyers to inherit his substantial holdings.

They claimed their father was vulnerable to manipulation.

The two lawyers, Ken Bauman and Johnathan Haub, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Pearson was a longtime mutual friend and that they had served as his informal and formal legal advisers over the years.

Bauman, who according to court records helped prepare the 2020 will, and Haub declined to disclose what Pearson told them about his reasons for the change.

Haub said only that Pearson “had a change of heart.”

Sarah Pearson said her father began “acting differently” starting in 2018 through the period before his death.

“He hardly slept,” she wrote in a sworn statement filed in Clackamas County Court. “He seemed confused, stressed, overworked, and mentally exhausted. My sister and I worried that he was abusing Adderall and other substances.”

Public records and those familiar with Pearson’s final months suggest one possible sign of a fissure between Pearson and his daughters: In early 2020, Oregon Secretary of State records show the women, who had worked for their father at one point, opened a pawn shop of their own.

He disinherited them about five months later.

It wasn’t until after his death that his daughters learned he’d left almost everything to Bauman and Haub.


Jimmy Pearson’s ties to Bauman and Haub go back years.

The former prosecutors had long careers handling drug prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland.

In fact, that’s how they first came to know Pearson.

It was Haub who prosecuted Pearson in the early 1990s for selling marijuana, long before the drug was legal in Oregon.

Pearson would go on to serve almost four years in prison for selling marijuana and was ordered to turn over hundreds of thousands of dollars of property to the government as part of the resolution of the case.

“I am the guy that sent him to prison for growing marijuana and forfeited his property,” Haub said in an interview this week.

Even during negotiations to settle the criminal case, Pearson was friendly, Haub said. He was struck by Pearson’s acceptance of responsibility, he said.

Later, once his prison sentence was behind him, Pearson wanted to operate a pawn shop in Gladstone. He asked Haub to vouch for him with local police.

“I wrote to the chief,” Haub said. “I said this man is an honorable man. He cooperates with law enforcement. He’s paid his debt.”

Over time, the two became friends, occasionally meeting for lunch. Haub recalled how he organized help for veterans and how Pearson was eager to pitch in. He said Pearson donated computers to the effort. Haub once mentioned a household project he wanted to take care of and Pearson showed up to help.

When he retired from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2017, Haub invited Pearson to speak at the farewell gathering. Haub recalled how Pearson told those gathered that he wished Haub “was my dad.”

Afterward, Haub and Pearson went to a downtown pub to celebrate.

“I did what I could to help him stay straight and narrow,” Haub said.

Bauman said he knew of Pearson from his days at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and then met him about 10 years ago through Terry Emmert, owner of Clackamas County-based Emmert International, an engineering and logistics company. Bauman, now retired from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, works for Emmert, who was friends with Pearson.

Emmert’s signature is on Pearson’s 2020 will as a witness.

Bauman said he ended up taking care of a wide range of legal matters for Pearson. Pearson offered payment, but Bauman said he declined.

“It was really a labor of love, didn’t need the money,” he said. “Jimmy was such a great character.”

He said Pearson often dropped by the office “just to talk.” He would bring his dog, Ruby.

Bauman said he looked past Pearson’s criminal record and admired what he’d made of himself since prison.

Bauman started his career as an FBI agent, then went on to become a federal prosecutor and spent 35 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I have a lot of ex-felons, though a lot of them have passed away, that I consider friends,” Bauman said. “I did a lot of drug prosecutions. You aren’t dealing with some street trash. A lot of them are bright.”

But Haub sensed a sadness about Pearson.

Haub was unaware, he said, that Pearson had sought out the company of Tate, who investigators suspect ransacked the mansion and walked out with bins full of what turned out to be costume jewelry.

“He was a very lonely man,” Haub said, “and it was a very terrible death.”


In 2020, Pearson drafted a new will.

Haub said the change in beneficiaries was intended “as a temporary thing” and that Bauman referred Pearson to an estate lawyer in Corvallis who could help address Pearson’s wishes for his estate.

“We expected him to do that,” Haub said. “We were not intending to be heirs.”

Haub at age 73 was older by a decade than Pearson and said he thought Pearson would outlive him.

Bauman declined to say what Pearson told him about his motivations for cutting his daughters out of the will.

He also declined to describe Pearson’s mental state at the time he asked for the revisions.

“Jimmy might (have decided) that two trusted friends who didn’t need the money would be the appropriate people — and nobody anticipates you’re going to get murdered, right? — might carry out his desires since they knew him,” Bauman said, though he wouldn’t confirm that was what Pearson had decided.

Anastasia Yu Meisner, a Portland lawyer who specializes in estate planning, said it’s unusual for someone to name their lawyers as beneficiaries.

She said the will named Bauman’s paralegal as the personal representative for Pearson’s estate, a role that gave the woman authority to distribute Pearson’s personal possessions, such as momentos, vehicles and household items as she saw fit.

The rest of Pearson’s assets, including his home and businesses, were to be split between Haub and Bauman.

Meisner reviewed the will at The Oregonian/OregonLive’s request and said she saw nothing that required the two attorneys to do anything with the estate but keep it.

“Once they receive it, they could choose to gift it,” she said. “That’s up to them.”

She said more thoughtful estate planning by Pearson could have ensured his assets went to his grandchildren.

“If the goal for Pearson was to provide for his grandchildren, this was not the way to do it,” she said.


In court filings, Sarah Pearson noted that Bauman served as her father’s lawyer for years, carrying out a wide range of legal duties on his behalf.

He filed insurance claims, helped obtain state licenses for Pearson to grow and sell marijuana and defended him in a lawsuit that stemmed from an eBay sale.

He also drafted an earlier will for Pearson in 2018 that named his daughters as his beneficiaries, she said.

The filings in the probate case shed no light on the state of Pearson’s relationship with his daughters.

Sarah Pearson did not respond to questions about the family dynamic. She said in a Facebook message only that their father “had the biggest heart” and was the kind of man who “would help anyone.”

The fight over the will went to mediation.

Bauman said one of the primary goals for the two lawyers was to provide for Pearson’s grandchildren.

Pearson’s daughters, who both live in Gresham, and Bauman and Haub reached an agreement in October, court records show.

Under the terms, the two women got their father’s A-1 Hawk pawn shops.

Most of the rest of Pearson’s estate — including proceeds from the sale of his home, which went on the market recently for more than $2 million — went into a trust for his grandchildren.

Haub and Bauman each got $75,000.

The men downplayed the conflict, saying their friend’s wishes were honored in the end.

“Jimmy wanted his grandchildren taken care of,” Bauman said.

He said he and Haub insisted the children “be part of any settlement of us walking away. We knew that’s what Jimmy wanted.”

Reached this week, Sarah Pearson declined to discuss the legal wrangling over the will.

“It’s very unfair as to what has happened to him and everyone involved,” she said in a Facebook message without elaborating. “Wrong on so many levels.”

During last week’s court hearing where Tate was convicted of murder, Pearsons’ daughters spoke of their deep grief.

“My dad and I had so much to talk about and resolve,” Sarah Pearson told Tate. “You robbed me of everything. The only comfort I get is he is watching down and finally knows everything.”

Sarah Pearson referred questions to her lawyer, John Christianson, who said the Pearson family is “pleased we were able to settle the will contest quickly and without the need for protracted litigation.

“With the will contest behind us,” he said in a statement, “my clients can focus their energy on grieving the tragic loss of their father.”