Testimony cuts time in prison
Jeff Barth could have gotten 25 years for his role in the death of Rachel Burkheimer. Instead, he received less than 10 years.
A Snohomish County judge on Friday sentenced the 23-year-old Everett man to nearly 10 years behind bars for what he called Barth's failure "in his moment of truth."
With credit for time already served and time off for good behavior, Barth could be free in less than eight years.
Barth apologized to Burkheimer's family.
"I have to live knowing I could have stopped what happened," he said.
The sentence was consistent with the deal Barth struck in February with Snohomish County prosecutors.
He'd originally had been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and kidnapping in connection with the September 2002 abduction and killing of Burkheimer, 18, of Marysville. Barth faced a minimum 25 years behind bars if he had been convicted of the original charge.
Just days from the start of his trial, Barth began cooperating with police. He ultimately agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
Prosecutors agreed to drop the murder and conspiracy charges in exchange for Barth's testimony and his guilty plea to the kidnapping charge.
Barth took the stand at the murder trials of Yusef "Kevin" Jihad, John Anderson and John Whitaker, deputy prosecutor Julie Mohr told Judge James Allendoerfer. All were convicted and are now serving lengthy sentences.
Barth helped win convictions for the others, particularly Jihad, Mohr said. Barth characterized Jihad as the dominant personality in an Everett-based gang that called itself the Northwest Mafia. He told juries that Burkheimer was killed because the gang came to view her as a threat.
Cooperation aside, Barth played a role in what happened to Burkheimer, and he deserved to be punished, Mohr said.
"Each person involved in this crime added fuel to the fire," she said.
Barth's attorney, John Henry Browne of Seattle, urged Allendoerfer to depart from state sentencing guidelines and impose a five-year sentence.
Were it not for Barth, the truth about Burkheimer's killing might never have been known, Browne said. Coming to grips with the truth of what he did - and more importantly didn't do - has changed Barth for the better, the lawyer added.
Allendoerfer said that as the case unfolded he heard about two Jeff Barths. One was described as a loving and respectful person, and the other as an "angry, defiant tough guy whose nickname in the community - 'Pig' - shows a person who is an experienced criminal," the judge said.
Allendoerfer detailed the evidence in court about Barth. It was clear he knew about plans to kidnap Burkheimer and stood by doing nothing to help when she was suddenly set upon by the others, the judge said.
Barth shook his head in denial, but Allendoerfer said testimony showed Barth joined in taunting and humiliating Burkheimer while she was tied up in the garage, including threatening her with sexual assault. He also allegedly bragged about pistol-whipping the teen.
The judge said he didn't believe Barth had pistol-whipped Burkheimer, but the boast "certainly shows you were proud of the idea," the judge said.
Burkheimer's mother, Denise Webber of Marysville, told Barth that it was too late for apologies. She asked Barth to imagine her daughter's horror in the hours before her killing.
"You could have done the brave thing, the right thing, to get her out of there," she said.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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