EVERETT — The man convicted of fatally stabbing Patti Berry in a 1995 ambush attack failed this week to convince the state Supreme Court to weigh his claims that he received an unfair trial.
Danny Ross Giles, 49, wanted the state’s high court to review his 2014 first-degree murder conviction in Berry’s cold-case killing. The request came after the state Court of Appeals in November rejected Giles’ assertion that his trial was flawed.
Giles challenged that ruling. A panel of five Supreme Court justices met Tuesday and unanimously agreed not to take up Giles’ case.
That means the longtime sex offender will remain in state prison where he’s serving more than 47 years for Berry’s murder.
“He’s where he’s supposed to be,” Berry’s mother, Nancy Stensrud, said Friday.
Giles was linked to Berry’s killing through sensitive DNA testing that wasn’t available at the time of the murder. When confronted by detectives, he told a series of stories to distance himself from any of the locations tied to the killing. He also told detectives that his DNA might have wound up on the steering wheel of Berry’s car and on her clothing because he possibly had sex with her, although he didn’t recall.
Berry was a single mom who paid the bills by working as a nude dancer. She was killed after she was leaving work one night to head for home.
On appeal, Giles claimed he was unfairly convicted because Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss didn’t allow jurors to hear about other people the defense believed should be offered as possible suspects. Weiss reached that decision after a series of hearings over five days, weighing the information that the defense wanted to present.
The appeals court ruled that the evidence Giles wanted to present about others was legally insufficient and based on “the pyramiding of speculation upon inferences.”
Craig Matheson, the county chief criminal deputy prosecutor, welcomed the high court’s ruling.
“We are just very gratified that this apparently is done for Patti and her family,” Matheson said. “The sheriff’s office got it right. The jury got it right. The Court of Appeals got it right. And now state Supreme Court has got it right.”
But the case isn’t over.
Giles was not a suspect in Berry’s death until he was linked by the DNA tests. The same was true in the 1995 disappearance of Tracey Brazzel, a hair stylist who dropped from sight at 22, a few months before Berry’s killing. No trace of her has been found in the decades since, despite searches by detectives and her family.
Giles in 2012 also was charged with Brazzel’s killing after genetic tests turned up his DNA in a blood-like spot. It had been collected from the exterior of her car at the time Brazzel disappeared. Giles denied having anything to do with her disappearance. He later wrote a jailhouse letter that contained descriptions of being in her apartment and car, supposedly to purchase drugs. At the time, detectives had convinced Giles there was substantially more physical evidence.
Weiss severed the Berry and Brazzel charges for trial. He held that it would have been prejudicial to Giles for a single jury to hear evidence in both murder cases.
After Berry’s conviction, lawyers on both sides agreed to dismiss the Brazzel murder charge, without prejudice. That was done in anticipation of being able to refile should Brazzel’s body be found.
Cold-case detective Jim Scharf said that what’s become the Giles case is now in its 22nd year, and based on paperwork alone, it likely is the biggest investigation in sheriff’s office history.
“To me, this whole thing isn’t closed yet,” he said Friday. Justice has been found for Patti Berry, but there remains unfinished business with Giles.
“We know he killed Tracey Brazzel,” Scharf said. “We need him to tell us where her remains are so we can give her a proper burial.”
That’s a plea detectives, prosecutors and members of Brazzel’s family have made repeatedly in the years since Giles was linked to the missing woman through DNA.
“Hopefully he’ll figure out he needs to change his ways and do the right thing, for once,” Scharf said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snorthnews.