Centralia man sentenced in toddler death says he's innocent

Updated:

CHEHALIS, Wash. - A 25-year-old Centralia man was sentenced Wednesday to prison on rape and murder charges in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter, but he claimed that he’s an innocent man.

On Wednesday, James Reeder was sentenced to a minimum 37 years to life in prison.  

According to the prosecutor’s office, 2-year-old Koralynn Fister died after being hit in the head and drowned in a bathtub. Police found signs of abuse on her body.

Prosecutors said Reeder was the only person who was alone with Koralynn to inflict the injuries.

KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Richard Thompson spoke with Reeder from his jail cell, and Reeder said he did not do the crime.

“It’s been a living hell for me in here. I’ve been called a rapist and a baby-killer for the last 10 months,” Reeder said.

Reeder said he tried to save Koralynn when he found her unresponsive after a bath.

“I run across the street and have the neighbors call 911 while I’m trying to give her CPR and save her life. I was terrified,” Reeder said.

Reeder never admitted guilt but entered a plea deal that resulted in a conviction because he could never get a fair trial in Lewis County.

“Everybody thinks I’m a monster and a baby-rapist and a murderer. You think I’m going to in front of a jury of 12 people and they are going to give me a fair chance at all in trial?” Reeder asked.

Thompson asked Reeder, “Why did you torture, rape and murder Koralynn?”

“I did not torture, rape and murder Koralynn,” said Reeder.

Even though Reeder claims he is innocent, as part of his plea deal, he gave up the right to appeal his conviction.

Reeder was the boyfriend of Koralynn’s mother, Becky Heupel, who will be charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment.

A Lewis County prosecutor said Heupel put her relationship with Reed ahead of her daughter’s safety. 

The prosecutor’s office said Heupel has some developmental issues, but they won’t stand in the way of filing charges.