Democrats allow convicted 3-strikes killer chance of freedom

July 29, 2022by John Ley0
  • Roy Wayne Russell has beaten a life time prison sentence without the possibility of parole for the second time!

  • This happened in Vancouver’s Lincoln neighborhood.

  • In 2019, the democrat controlled legislature removed one of the strikes, second degree robbery. Then in 2021, they made the 2019 change “retroactive”, requiring these criminals to be resentenced.

  • News reports indicate 114 career criminals may be “re-sentenced” and possibly let back on our streets.

A convicted murderer from Vancouver has beaten a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release — for a second time.

Roy Wayne Russell Jr. first walked free in 2001 after winning an appeal following an arson conviction. Just four years later, at age 45, he suffocated 14-year-old Chelsea Harrison after hosting underage drinking and drugs parties at his Vancouver duplex.

Russell now admits he killed Chelsea. But due to a change made by the Washington Legislature last year, he may walk free again in the coming years.

Under the revised three-strikes law, a prior out-of-state robbery conviction no longer counts as his first strike offense; his mandatory life sentence will be vacated, and he will be resentenced. He is likely to be ordered to spend from 21 to 30 years in prison, with credit for about 16½ years already served.

“When a judge sits on the bench and says ‘Life in prison without the possibility of parole,’ that should be a pretty steadfast decision and should never come up again,” Chelsea’s grandmother, Sylvia Johnson, said in a news report.

“I don’t care if he’s been a good boy in jail or what he’s done. We are quite upset about it,” she said. “The crime that he committed, murdering my granddaughter, turned our whole family upside down. … Your life is never the same, and you try to move on and not have it on your mind too much, but it’s always there.”

Arson, kidnapping, robbery

Russell was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He had been convicted of arson for setting a couch on fire in his former girlfriend’s apartment in Vancouver. Prosecutors said he set the blaze, which resulted in $50,000 worth of damage, after confronting the woman at a local tavern and being ejected by bouncers.

At the time, he already had two serious, violent criminal convictions on his record: a 1979 robbery and 1982 kidnapping, both in Arizona. Prosecutors believed the convictions counted as strike offenses in Washington. (Washington’s three-strikes law imposes a mandatory life sentence for those who are convicted of a third most-serious offense.)

On Jan. 19, 2001, the state Court of Appeals vacated his life sentence, finding the Clark County judge erred in equating Russell’s Class 4 felony conviction for kidnapping in Arizona to the crime of second-degree kidnapping in Washington. The court ruled Russell’s Arizona crime was the equivalent of unlawful imprisonment in Washington, which does not qualify as a strike offense.

He was released from prison June 19, 2001.

On July 1, 2005, Russell moved into a duplex in Vancouver’s Lincoln neighborhood. Chelsea, a freshman at Evergreen High School, was among a group of teenagers who frequented the house. Russell plied them with beer and liquor, let them smoke marijuana and do things without traditional adult supervision.

On Nov. 1, 2005, Chelsea went to Russell’s house after school along with a half-dozen other teens. When the other kids left, she was left alone with him.

Her body was found in his basement shower with the water running. An autopsy determined she had been suffocated.

The prosecution argued that Russell killed Chelsea after she rejected his sexual advances. Witnesses told police that Russell had been flirting, and the two were drinking heavily while playing a card game involving drinking.

Russell told police the teens left his house late that night, and he left Chelsea alone while she used his bathroom. He said he thought she had arranged a ride home, so he went to his place of business to get some toilet paper.

Russell’s DNA was found under one of Chelsea’s fingernails, and his cellphone records showed he was at home long after he claimed he’d left.

A 12-woman jury convicted Russell in January 2006 of second-degree murder, second-degree felony murder and first-degree manslaughter in Chelsea’s death. Once again, he was sentenced under the three-strikes law to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Chelsea Harrison Act

In 2008, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the Chelsea Harrison Act which plugged the loophole in the three-strikes law that allowed Russell to be freed the first time.

The act amended state law to specify that any felony crime conviction in another state with a finding of sexual motivation counts as a three-strikes crime if the minimum sentence imposed was 10 years or more.

‘Miscarriage of law and justice’

In 2019, the Legislature removed second-degree robbery — a felony which generally involves no weapon or physical injury — from the list of most-serious offenses; last year, it made the change retroactive, triggering resentencings for an estimated 100-plus people who “struck out,” in part, because of a second-degree robbery conviction.

Johnson said Russell is a habitual criminal, and she still remembers Superior Court Judge John Wulle telling Russell, “You are the poster boy for the three-strike act.”

“I hope he isn’t put back on the street, and if so, I hope they have sense enough to have him on probation or parole,” Johnson said. “I can’t believe a legislature would even consider the possibility of someone like him being set free again.”

Retired Vancouver police Detective Scott Smith, the lead detective in the murder case, said his first impression of Russell was that “he’s a very gifted con man.”

“He’s beaten a third strike again — a robbery, a kidnapping, an arson and now a murder,” Smith told the news media recently.

“The question should be: Do the legislators think of the consequences of their actions on the victims? They’re looking at fairness and equity, but we are forgetting our victims,” Smith said. “We have a 14-year-old girl whose life was ended, and a man who may get out in 21 years.

“She didn’t get a chance to make it to 21.

Let’s reverse this miscarriage of justice. Vancouver democrats Annette Cleveland, Sharon Wylie, and Monica Stonier all voted in favor of amending the 3-strikes law. Governor Inslee signed the bill making it law. It’s time to right this wrong. It’s time to stop being soft on crime.

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