By Scott North and Jim Haley / Herald Writers
In the end, it was all about three sisters.
Niki Desautels / The Herald
Kristena, 16, and her mother, Gail Doll, listen as Richard Clark confesses Friday to the murder of 7-year-old Roxanne Doll.
The eldest was 12. The youngest 5.
The middle girl, 7-year-old Roxanne Doll, disappeared from her south Everett bedroom 11 years ago. Her body was found a week later. She had been raped and murdered.
Roxanne’s sisters, one now 23 and a mother, the other a well-spoken 16, said that over the years they had tortured thoughts that maybe they could have done something to have saved their sister.
Elizabeth Armstrong / The Herald
Richard Clark looks toward courtroom spectators Friday before his hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse.
On Friday, the man who killed their sister told them otherwise.
Richard Mathew Clark, 37, stood up in a Snohomish County courtroom and said he alone was to blame for the March 31, 1995, killing.
“No other person is responsible in any way, shape or form for Roxanne’s murder,” Clark said. “No one had anything else to do with these crimes. No one could have prevented me from doing what I did. No one failed to protect Roxanne.”
Clark, who was convicted in 1997 of Roxanne’s murder, accepted responsibility for the killing under an agreement Snohomish County prosecutors reached in consultation with the girl’s family. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop their years-long legal battle to see Clark die.
Roxanne’s mother, Gail Doll, said she supported the agreement because her surviving children needed to know they have no reason to feel guilty.
“It is easy to tell the 23-year-old and the 16-year-old, but it is hard to tell the 12-year-old and the 5-year-old who still live in them today,” she said.
Nick Doll, 19, Roxanne’s brother, also supported the deal because it would spare his sisters from the pain of another trial.
Clark now faces life in prison without possibility of release. He waved all rights to appeal or legal challenges before being handcuffed and whisked from the courtroom. His final destination is expected to be the state penitentiary at Walla Walla.
“I’m glad it is over, and I pray to God he gets what is coming to him while he is in there, because our system wasn’t doing it quickly enough,” said Roxanne’s father, Tim Iffrig. “I’m tired of going through the pain.”
Friday’s hearing was at times emotional, and at times a reunion.
Corrections officers who provided security during Clark’s 1997 aggravated murder trial lined the walls. The lead investigator, Everett police officer Lloyd Herndon, sat in the front row. His daughter, now 18, was the same age as Roxanne at the time of her death.
The lead deputy prosecutor who won Clark’s conviction in 1997, Ron Doersch, attended Friday’s hearing dressed for his new job as a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy. Doersch decided last year to give up courtroom battles in favor of fighting crime on the streets.
Roxanne’s death was far-reaching, he said, “like throwing a rock into a pond. It touched many lives.”
One of Clark’s attorneys, Seattle lawyer Jeff Ellis, wept when Roxanne’s father embraced him after the hearing and thanked him for getting answers.
Gail Doll also hugged Ellis, thanking him for helping her family. “We don’t have any hard feelings to you,” she said.
As part of his statement, Clark told how he had lured Roxanne out of her bedroom window after she had been put to bed for the night. He told the girl she could come play in his van with a puppy. Clark said he then drove the child to north Everett, where he raped and killed her to keep her from reporting the attack.
Prosecuting attorney Janice Ellis (no relation to Clark’s lawyer) said she was prepared to go forward with another trial, scheduled for later this month in hopes of reinstating his death sentence.
Then negotiations began regarding Clark’s willingness to answer questions about the case. He gave prosecutors a taped statement, which was shared with Roxanne’s family.
“Roxanne Doll’s family came to me and told me that Clark’s confession ended part of their nightmare,” Ellis said. “They have had many questions answered – questions that have tormented them for 11 years.”
To ask the family to continue living with this case “is unnecessary and cruel,” Ellis said. “The family came to me. They asked me to do this.”
After the hearing, prosecutors gave Roxanne’s family a bracelet the girl was wearing when she disappeared. It had been held as evidence since the child’s body was found. Gail Doll tearfully snapped it around the wrist of her youngest daughter, Kristena.
The slain girl’s mother said she was comforted to know that her surviving children won’t have to face more years of legal battles, and that “on the day that it started (11 years ago) is the day that we ended it.”
Now, Roxanne’s name will no longer be brought up in connection with what may happen to the man who killed her, Gail Doll said.
“Now the only things associated with Roxy are the good things,” she said.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.