3-strikes felon released early, now back behind bars, facing murder charges

In 2013, Stonney Rivers was granted clemency by then-Governor Chris Gregoire. He's now facing murder charges again in the Nov. 2, 2017 shooting death of Daniel Cabrera. (Photo: KOMO News)

KENT, Wash. - It was supposed to be a second chance at a new life. A three-strikes felon serving life in prison was released early. But, two years later, he and another man showed up to the Kent Regional Justice Center Monday to face murder charges. The alleged victim's family was also there.

The Cabrera family said it was a struggle to show up in court and come face-to-face with the two men suspected of killing their loved one, 24-year-old David Cabrera.

“It was pretty hard. It was very difficult for whole family,” said Daniel Cabrera, the victim’s twin brother. “It’s been very difficult. He left son. He left his wife.”

David Cabrera was shot in the head November 2 at the Golden Kent Motel.

In court Monday the suspects, 50-year-old Stonney Marcus Rivers and 47-year-old Theneious Swafford pleaded not guilty. Both men have extensive criminal histories.

In 2015, Rivers was released from prison.

Two years earlier, then-Governor Chris Gregoire commuted Rivers' life sentence he had been serving under the state's three-strikes law.

It's a move the King County prosecutor recommended, even though Rivers' criminal history included nearly 30 convictions.

“Mr. Rivers is a career criminal. He’s proven to be a violent offender,” said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas.

The prosecutor's office did not comment on the case Monday.

Police said after Rivers was released from prison, he continued committing crimes.

“He did have an active warrant out of Bellevue for identity theft. I know he had additional arrests out of the city of Kent for assault,” said Thomas.

Long-time talk show host John Carlson co-authored the three-strikes law. Carlson said he specifically put in the section that allows the governor to grant clemency.

“It was supposed to apply to people who genuinely changed their ways and redeemed themselves after serving long sentences,” said Carlson. “Clemency is what you give people who have redeemed themselves- who have changed their ways. There was nothing to suggest that Stonney Rivers turned over a new leaf.”

He went onto say, “This crime should not have happened because the main culprit should have been in prison. There was no absolutely reason for Stonney Rivers to get early release.”

The Cabrera family said they're at a loss for words learning about River's early release.

“We have lots of mixed emotions,” said Daniel Cabrera.

Both Rivers and Swafford have been charged with first-degree murder. They'll both be back in court on December 18.

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