The sentence of Chelsea Harrison’s killer converted Friday from life in prison to 316 months in prison, minus time served
For Clark County Today
A resentencing hearing was held Friday (Nov. 18) morning for convicted killer Roy Wayne Russell, who brutally murdered 14-year-old Chelsea Harrison in 2005 during an underage drug and alcohol party he hosted in his Vancouver home. The hearing was necessary due to a retroactively applied and newly enacted state law that took effect in 2021, changing the state’s three strikes law mandating a sentence of life in prison for a person convicted of three violent crimes.
With the change, a robbery that is committed outside of Washington state is no longer counted as a strike, which, for Russell, means that his 1979 robbery committed in Arizona will no longer count against him in this state. Russell was also convicted of a 1982 kidnapping in Arizona, as well as a 1997 domestic violence-related arson in Clark County that caused over $50,000 in damage to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.
The new law saw Russell’s sentence converted Friday from life in prison to 316 months in prison, minus time served. That means that, minus the approximately 17 years of time served, Russell will be a free man in a little over nine years. Further, it’s possible for Russell to be eligible for early release with good behavior, which means he could walk out of prison in as little as five to seven years from now, according to Harrison’s family’s attorney, Jim Senescu.
“With credit for time served and any applicable good time, he could be out in five to seven years,” Senescu said in a press release following the resentencing. “We know that he has 17 years credit for time served, but we are not able to know how much good time he has accrued or will accrue.”
Senescu said the 316-month sentence is the “high end of the standard range.” He also said, “The judge issued a very compelling ruling about the conflict between our legislature and Courts and how important this case was to the community. I thought the Judge’s ruling was very well thought out and intellectually deliberate in describing the situation.”
At the end of October, a gathering deemed the “Justice for Chelsea” rally, which was attended by several hopeful political candidates, was held to bring awareness to the situation. Leading the charge was 49th Legislative District candidate Jeremy Baker, who was defeated in the general election Nov. 8 but still attended the hearing Friday morning.
Baker lived just one block away from where the murder took place and spoke heavily against the change in the law during his campaign.
“I would walk my children to school after Chelsea was murdered,” he said in a statement following the ruling, “and when we would pass the scene it was hard not to think about what that young girl went through and think how a trauma like it would affect my family.”
Notably absent was incumbent and victor in Baker’s race for state representative (49th District), Monica Stonier, who signed off on the law that will see four-time convicted violent felon Russell walking the streets of the community in possibly just a few years’ time.
Senescu said that Russell had objected to physically appearing in court. Harrison’s mother was unable to attend the hearing as she is living out of state, but her grandmother attended via telephone and testified, discussing the impact that the murder had on the family. She argued against the resentencing.
Friday’s hearing represented the second time that Russell has beat a life-in-prison sentence. in 2001, after being handed his first life sentence, the Washington State’s Court of Appeals reversed the decision, saying that the Arizona and Washington kidnapping levels were not equivalent as the judge had ruled (the class 4 felony in Arizona had been ruled by the judge during the original trial as the same as second-degree kidnapping in Washington). The Appeals Court ruled that the class 4 Arizona felony was actually the same as Washington’s unlawful imprisonment, not kidnapping in the second degree, which meant the crime wouldn’t count as a strike.
Five months after that, Russell murdered Chelsea Harrison. Harrison would have been 31 years old this year.
Stonier has not returned a request for comment on the matter.
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