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Slaying suspect in two 1995 cold-case killings about to be freed

An imprisoned sex offender linked to two cold cases is due for release; police hope to keep him behind bars.

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By Scott North and Diana Hefley
Herald Writers
Published:
EVERETT -- Behind-the-scenes efforts are under way to keep a repeat sex offender linked to two 1995 cold-case killings from walking free when his prison sentence is completed Friday.
Danny Ross Giles, 43, is scheduled to be released from the Washington State Reformatory late this week after serving every day possible for a 2005 felony exposure case out of Seattle.
Snohomish County cold-case detectives say genetic tests connect Giles to the July 31, 1995, killing of Patti Berry and the May 1995 disappearance and presumed death of Tracey Brazzel. No charges have been filed in either case, and there is nothing in place now to keep Giles from simply walking out of prison and back into the community.
Prosecutors and police have been quietly working to change that.
Based on the forensic evidence reportedly linking Giles to the Berry and Brazzel cases, "we are closely scrutinizing every bit of information we can get our hands on," Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said last week. He declined to discuss the status of potential criminal charges.
Meanwhile, King County prosecutors, who obtained Giles' most recent conviction, may seek a judge's order that would keep him locked up indefinitely at the state's Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island while they seek his civil commitment as an untreated sexually violent predator. Giles has a 1987 rape conviction and has adult convictions for two other sexually motivated crimes. He's repeatedly refused to participate in sex offender treatment.
A decision on whether to bring a civil commitment case against Giles is expected early this week, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office.
Berry, 26, was killed after finishing her shift dancing at Honey's, a nude nightclub that used to be along Highway 99 in south Everett. Detectives believe she was attacked in south Everett while looking for a place to inflate a low tire on her car. She left behind a daughter, then just 2.
Brazzel, 22, worked as a hair stylist. She was last seen May 26, 1995, leaving a south county pub. Her car was found days later, missing some windows. There was a small spot of blood on the passenger side door, according to court papers.
Jim Scharf, the cold-case detective who has been spearheading the investigations of the Berry and Brazzel cases for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, said Giles' name didn't come up during the original investigations.
"Giles was never a suspect anywhere in this case until we got the DNA hit on him," Scharf said.
A key break came in 2004. That's when state crime lab scientists found a mixture of genetic material on evidence that had been preserved when Berry's blood-spattered car was searched nine years earlier. Tests found a man's genetic profile mixed in with Berry's, according to court papers.
It wasn't until summer 2008 that crime lab scientists determined that the male genetic profile matched Giles' in a DNA database. In 2010, tests were run on the blood spot found on Brazzel's car in 1995 and a match to Giles reportedly was made.
Suspicions about Giles' involvement in the Berry and Brazzel cases became public in late May when detectives sought a judge's permission to gather more of his DNA for use in tests. Those tests have since confirmed the earlier DNA matches, Scharf said.
Detectives have spoken with Giles more than once, but Scharf declined to provide details. Investigators in recent weeks have been interviewing the man's friends and other associates.
"My aim is to get him a fair trial and to see him convicted of two murders if he is the right guy," Scharf said.
The detective also wants to locate Brazzel's body and return her to her family, he added.
Concern about Giles' upcoming release has been building for years.
Giles in recent months has been held in isolation at the reformatory. Prison officials decided to take that step after news reports about the Berry and Brazzel cases.
Giles has no pending cases, so no attorney has been assigned to represent him.
King County prosecutors have been considering seeking civil commitment for Giles since at least March, according to state Department of Corrections records obtained by The Herald.
Prosecutors in Seattle this spring asked corrections officials to supply details from their files, including a polygraph that Giles agreed to complete in September 2006 as part of a sexual deviancy screening -- the only time it appears he's even considered cooperating with treatment.
Polygraph results aren't admissible in criminal trials, but they are used in sex offender treatment programs. The person who conducted Giles' test wrote that he was less-than candid when describing his history of sexual misdeeds.
The state's review of Giles' criminal history found at least six sexually motivated offenses, some uncharged, although he reportedly admitted to some of that conduct. The incidents all involve women and girls, ages 16 to 28. The state also has documented how over the years Giles has repeatedly refused sex offender treatment, in spite of court orders.
State corrections officials in October 2006 determined that Giles, if released, should be required to register as a Level III sex offender, in other words, an offender corrections officials consider most likely to engage in more sex crimes if set free.
Giles' freedom in recent years has been in the hands of the state Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board. Its members repeatedly have voted to keep him locked up, ruling the public would be safest if Giles served every day possible under the law.
"The board is extremely concerned about the risk that Mr. Giles does present to re-offend in a sexual manner, especially considering his belief that his past behavior should not be considered an indication of his present risk," the panel found five years ago.
Last year, Giles told sentencing review board members that he's matured in prison and is ready for freedom, but he still doesn't feel he needs sex offender treatment. If he decides he does at some point, he said, he'll save money by counseling himself.
The board voted late last year to keep Giles behind bars until July 29 -- the last day he legally could be kept in prison for his felonies.
"Mr. Giles will be released at the end of his term and based on his past history of offending and having done nothing to address his risks, we believe there is strong concern for community safety when that occurs," board members Tom Sahlberg and Betsy Hollingsworth wrote in November.
If Giles is released from prison as scheduled, the state corrections department won't be able to monitor his whereabouts or behavior. His sentence does not order him to submit to supervision by community corrections officers, said Chad Lewis, a corrections department spokesman.
"He will not be supervised in the community if he is released and we do not have the legal authority to supervise him," Lewis said. If corrections officials try to monitor Giles absent a court order, "we would technically be stalking," he said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com
Story tags » HomicideSex CrimesSnohomish County

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