Shorter sentence denied in 2001 Everett murder case

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) Gov. Jay Inslee denied a recommendation from the state's clemency board to grant a shortened sentence to a woman serving 22 years for her role in a deadly group attack on a 64-year-old man that occurred when she was 14.

Inslee's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, sent Marriam Oliver's attorney a letter last week explaining the governor's reasoning. In September, the state's Clemency and Pardon's Board unanimously voted that Oliver, now 26, should be released in three years, as long as she doesn't have any infractions on her prison record during that time.

"While there is some merit in Ms. Oliver's petition, the Governor does not believe the recommended conditional commutation is appropriate at this time," Brown wrote in the letter released by the governor's office on Wednesday.

Oliver's attorney, Jennifer Stutzer, did not return a call seeking comment.

Oliver was one of five teens and an adult, Barbara Marie Opel, then 38, who either pleaded guilty or were convicted in the 2001 beating and stabbing death of Jerry Dean Heimann at his Everett home. Oliver, who was tried as an adult, received the lower end of the sentencing range for first-degree murder.

Prosecutors said Opel was hired by Heimann as a caregiver to his elderly mother who had Alzheimer's disease. Opel recruited her own 13-year-old daughter and other teens to kill him so she could get control of his bank account.

Oliver testified before the four-member board in September by telephone, saying the crime was something she would live with "for the rest of my life, that I took the life of a man, a father, a grandfather and friend."

Even though they ultimately voted for the conditional commutation, some members of the board expressed concern about the brutality of the crime, as well as some infractions Oliver had received in prison in recent years. In one instance, she yelled at a guard, and in another, she was penalized for a fight that she insisted she was trying to break up.

Brown said the governor shared those concerns.

"Her violation history is troubling," Brown wrote. "Clemency is a rare and extraordinary grant of relief and only those inmates with exemplary records should be afforded such an opportunity."

Several people, including those who worked with Oliver at the juvenile rehabilitation center where she first served time, testified on her behalf in September. Oliver also told board members she had participated in several educational and volunteer programs in prison, currently works as a Braille translator and uses her story to try and help others.

However, in a written statement submitted to the board, Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe called Oliver a "willing participant in a murder for hire" and wrote that the remaining 10 years she has to serve "is not an excessive sentence for such a brutal crime." He said a reduction of her sentence was not warranted.

Barbara Opel was sentenced in 2003 to life in prison without parole. Her daughter, Heather, is serving a 22-year sentence. Heather Opel's boyfriend, Jeff Grote, was 17 at the time of the crime and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He is serving a 50-year sentence.

Kyle Boston, 14 at the time of the slaying, was sentenced to 18 years behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Boston's cousin, then 13, was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in juvenile court in 2001 and has since been released. In Washington, youths sentenced in juvenile court cannot be imprisoned past the age of 21.

Brown, the governor's general counsel, wrote that while Inslee is denying the request, Oliver can re-petition the board when she is eligible again in two years.