EVERETT — The life sentence was a formality.
It’s what the state’s Three Strikes law for persistent offenders required.
What Thursday’s court proceeding provided was an outlet for Shannon Yeager’s family to express their sorrow for the loss of someone they loved, their anger at her killer and their frustration with the criminal justice system.
Yeager was murdered less than two months ago. She was beaten and stabbed, her body found by a railroad worker not far from the tracks off Everett’s Pigeon Creek Trail. She was 46.
She had been living in a homeless camp. Her boyfriend — a convicted killer who had been staying in a clean and sober house on Pine Street — confessed during questioning by police.
The case zipped through the legal process at an unusually quick pace. Three weeks after his arrest, John A. Derosia, 62, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, knowing the admission would send him to prison for the rest of his life.
The plea removed the risk Derosia could be charged with aggravated murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty. Before she died, Yeager told a passerby that she’d been raped. She was naked from the waist down and was given a pair of pants before the man she met along the trail went to look for help.
Prosecutors said they based their charging decision based on the evidence available.
“The state is confident we got the charge right,” deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell told Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz.
Yeager’s father, Gary Bean Sr., wished the state could have pursued the death penalty and that Derosia would have faced a harsher sentence than the 12-year term that was handed down when he killed his wife in 2003.
“He never should have been out to do this to my daughter,” Bean told the judge.
“He needs to swing at the end of a rope.”
Bean said he once considered Derosia “kind of a protector-type of person” for his daughter, whose struggles with alcohol left her homeless. The father learned too late about Derosia’s violent past.
That criminal history included a first-degree armed robbery conviction in Oregon in 1975, a robbery conviction in Texas and the 2003 second-degree domestic-violence murder of his wife in Snohomish County. He was released on the Snohomish County case in September 2014. Derosia also had a 1994 misdemeanor conviction for patronizing a prostitute out of King County.
Gary Bean Jr., Yeager’s brother, said Derosia is fortunate to be getting life in prison and the food and shelter it provides.
Stacy Strand, the victim’s sister, considered Yeager her best friend. She wore her sister’s necklace at the sentencing.
Strand said her sister was vulnerable and trusted Derosia. She wanted to overcome her alcohol addiction.
“He didn’t give her that chance,” she said.
Derosia also addressed the court.
He recalled the period that he lived with Yeager and how she would look at a photo of her son and lament she wasn’t in a condition to be a part of his life.
“I don’t know why I do the things I do,” he told the judge. “When I drink, I become that monster.”
The defendant said he understood the victim’s father wishing for the death penalty.
“I had no problem with that either,” he said.
At the time of the killing, Derosia was under community supervision. Fourteen years ago, he pleaded guilty to killing his wife, Marilyn, in their Lynnwood trailer. Derosia admitted strangling her. He slept at the foot of their bed for the next three days before walking into the police station with a written confession.
In that case, Derosia told police officers he and his wife had been drinking heavily, and he got tired of her hitting him. He said he “just lost it.” He returned a blow, striking her in the face. Then he grabbed a sweater and pulled it tight around her neck, he told officers.
Once released from prison, he allegedly admitted to detectives that he killed a co-worker in the early 1970s and started a fire to cover up the homicide. King County prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Derosia with a crime.
In the most recent killing, investigators were told that Yeager had been dating Derosia and the couple had lived together within the past year. Yeager reportedly had been staying at a camp near the Port of Everett.
Derosia told police that he attacked Yeager at the camp, beating her with his fists and stabbing her with a knife. He said he thought Yeager was dead and he left for home to change his clothes. He told police he returned to the camp to hide Yeager’s body and discovered that she wasn’t there.
He found her on the Pigeon Creek Trail. He said he slammed her head into the pavement until she died.
However, there is evidence that Yeager likely was stabbed where she was found, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Katie Wetmore wrote in charging papers. The stab wounds likely wouldn’t have allowed her to travel from the camp to where a man encountered her on the trail, according to court documents.
Some of what occurred is not crystal clear, Judge Kurtz said.
“What the defendant did was horrible and it was cruel,” the judge said.
It is only right and proper that the defendant should forfeit his freedom for the rest of his life, Kurtz said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; email@example.com.