Governor Jay Inslee granted reprieve in the death sentence of a convicted Bellingham child murderer.
In a taped confession, Clark Elmore told police he attacked Christy Ohnstad, 14, when she threatened to report him for molesting her when she was younger.
After raping and killing her and dumping her body near Lake Samish, Elmore criticized law enforcement for doing too little to find the girl — and even organized a search party to look for her.
He then fled to Oregon, intending to steal his twin brother's identity, before deciding to return to Bellingham and turn himself in six days after the slaying.
As with many death penalty cases, the courts have heard numerous appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal in October, a decision that drew a dissent from Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They argued that Elmore's trial lawyer that failed to investigate evidence that the defendant had brain damage.
Gov. Inslee's pledged two years ago to halt executions while he's in office, and he was just re-elected.
Though Inslee vowed to halt executions, the death penalty remains on the books. Once Inslee leaves office, another governor can choose to restart executions at the maximum security prison in Walla Walla, where Elmore has been housed for two decades.
Read Inslee's statement below.
Elmore had an execution date in less than one month.
Whatcom County prosecutor Dave McEachran went to Olympia last week to try to persuade Inslee to make an exception for Elmore.
Read McEachran's statement below.
He acknowledged to the Bellingham Herald that his effort was a long shot. But he said he brought the case file and crime scene photos to show the governor the horror the jurors saw before condemning Elmore to die.
Since Inslee's pledge, Elmore is the first of Walla Walla's nine death row inmates to exhaust every appeal in the higher courts.
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