By Scott North / Herald Writer
At the heart of it, Maurice Rivas and Tony Williams failed to act when they could have saved a young woman’s life.
A Snohomish County judge Wednesday ruled that each should spend years of their lives behind bars for their roles in the September 2002 death of Rachel Rose Burkheimer.
Rivas, 20, of Lynnwood was sentenced to 25 years, 10 months in prison. He had earlier pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Williams, 22, of Everett was sentenced to nine years and three months behind bars. He had pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping.
The sentences from Judge Linda Krese were in keeping with prosecutors’ recommendations.
The sentencing hearing marked the final act in a murder drama that has been unfolding for nearly two years in Snohomish County courtrooms.
Krese praised Burkheimer’s family for the “incredible class” they showed during the legal ordeal, including displays of compassion for the families of some of the people charged in the 18-year-old’s murder.
Rachel Burkheimer’s mother, Denise Webber of Marysville, said her family was exhausted and drained, but holding tight to their love for the slain young woman.
Bill Burkheimer of Marysville asked Rivas and Williams to “accept your fate with even a fraction of the grace and dignity” his youngest daughter summoned when she was ordered to kneel in a crude grave and shot to death.
Rivas and Williams cooperated with prosecutors, cutting deals that allowed them to plead guilty to reduced charges.
In exchange, the pair testified against co-defendants at three trials this year. They shared what they claimed to know about an Everett-based gang whose leaders decided Burkheimer posed a threat and had to die.
Both Williams and Rivas wept Wednesday and, in strangled voices, offered apologies to Burkheimer’s family.
Rivas’ attorney, Karen Halverson, said her client never knew his father and was abandoned by a drug-abusing mother. She asked for a sentence of 10 months less than Krese imposed.
The judge said she had considered sentencing him to an even longer term.
Krese recalled Rivas’ testimony – some of the most chilling in the case. Rivas considered Burkheimer one of his friends, but refused to help her or let her go free even when left alone with her in the woods while others in the gang went to pick up the man who shot her and the shovels used to dig her grave.
Burkheimer knew her death was near, Rivas testified. He said she asked only that Rivas make sure it was quick – a shooting, not a drowning.
Williams’ attorney, Pete Mazzone, urged Krese to sentence his client to six years, a departure from state guidelines. He said fear motivated Williams to turn up the stereo, drowning out Burkheimer’s screams. Fear also prompted him to get the duct tape that was used to bind her limbs, Mazzone said.
But Krese said Williams’ fear wasn’t an adequate excuse, not compared with Burkheimer’s suffering.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.