Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes

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Vancouver, WA:  A long time career criminal from Washington state convicted for the 2005 brutal murder of a teenager and sentenced to life without parole, has just been re-sentenced last week due to the changes in the state’s laws, and is expected to be released in a few years.

This is the second time Roy Russell, 62, had a life sentenced overturned.

In November 2005,  he hosted an underage drinking party where he smothered and beat a 14-year-old to death. Russell was 45 at the time.

He was subsequently charged and found guilty of murder and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Part of the decision to sentence him to life without parole was due to his long criminal past.

Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes
Image courtesy of KATU 2 ABC News YouTube Channel

But last week, he was re-sentenced and had that amount of prison time changed to 26 years with credit for time served. This was the second time Russell received a re-sentencing. Considering how much time he has already been in prison, he won’t be in much longer.

During his re-sentencing hearing, Russell admitted to the killing but claimed remorse. He told the court that he did it and he was sorry because ‘it was a bad thing that happened.’ He also apologized to the family and told them he didn’t know how things ‘got so out of hand.’

Part of the decision for the re-sentencing hearing stems from the three strikes law and what type of offense is eligible under the program.

In a local column covering the case, it stated:

“Second-degree burglary used to be considered one of Washington’s most serious offenses, a conviction of which led to one of three ‘strikes’ that lead to persistent offenders being sentenced to life without parole.”

It continued:

“The crime typically doesn’t involve a weapon or injury, and lawmakers in 2019 removed it as a most serious offense as they reconsidered the tough-on-crime policies of the past.”

Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes

Last year, Russell and his legal team filed for a motion with the court to revisit his sentence since the changes took place in regards to his past robbery conviction.

The original prosecutor for the 2005 murder case, Jim Sensecu, who now represents the family of the murdered 14-year-old, expressed disappointment in the circumstances.

It must have surely re-opened some of the wounds the family experienced from the murder.

According to the column, he stated:

“To me there is absolutely zero positive out of this whole thing. Yes, he got high end, which is the best we could have hoped for. But the fact that we’re even here today is a travesty.”

Before the murder conviction in 2006, Russell already had a long rap sheet of criminal behavior dating back to 1979. He was found guilty to three separate felony robbery charges, all of which qualified for the states ‘three strikes’ law.

Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes
Chelsea Harrison, murder victim.
Image screenshot of KATU 2 ABC News Channel

And in 1998, after the third felony robbery conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, the sentence was overturned three years later.

If it sounds confusing- it’s because it is. That’s Washington state for you.

All these factors, the robbery convictions, and the changes to the laws played a role during the re-sentencing hearing. Despite the heinous nature of the crime, Russell will likely not spend the rest of his life in prison.

According to the local column covering the story, it stated:

“The prosecuting attorney in this case says given the change, Russell will likely serve another 5-7 years in prison for this crime.”

Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes
A younger Russell leaving court years ago. Image screenshot of KATU 2 ABC News Channel

Russell, at the current age of 62, will be released as early as 67 . That’s young enough to still commit violent crimes.

The family of the murdered teen did not approve of the re-sentencing and weighed in at court. Sarah Johnson, the victim’s grandmother, told the court:

“He [Russell] says he wants to spend time with his mother at the holidays because she’s getting older. Well, guess what? I bet you that Chelsea [victim] would like to spend some time with her family for the holidays as well.” 

And she was spot on.

Unfortunately, the case is in Washington state- one of the leading states when it comes to progressive policies. It is no surprise that they lifted a life sentence.

The only question that remains is, how much softer can Washington state can get on crime? Only time will tell.

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Convict serving life sentence for brutal murder of teen to be released after Washington state law changes

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