Killer at 15, Wash. man now eligible for parole

TACOMA — A man who was 15 when he killed a Steilacoom marina owner is now eligible for parole.

A Pierce County judge on Friday erased Michael Harris’ original sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering Paul Wang in 1987 and resentenced him to 25 years to life, The Tacoma News Tribune reported.

A new state law spawned by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave Superior Court Judge Thomas Larkin no discretion in handing down the new sentence.

Harris, who is now 43, told the court he hopes Wang’s family can forgive him one day.

“A long time has passed,” he said. “I’m not the same person, not a reckless kid.”

Harris said he plans to be a productive citizen should he be paroled.

He was 15 and Barry Massey was 13 when they shot, stabbed and robbed Wang at his marina, making off with fishing rods, cash and candy. The crime shocked Pierce County residents, both for its brutality and the ages of its perpetrators.

Both teens were prosecuted as adults, convicted of the state’s highest crime [—] aggravated first-degree murder [—] and sentenced to life without parole.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding the case of Miller v. Alabama, ruled it was unconstitutional for juveniles to receive automatic sentences of life without parole. Such sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment for people whose brains still were developing and who might not have the wisdom or judgment to always know the impact of their actions, the high court ruled.

Based on that ruling, the Legislature last year eliminated mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of aggravated murder. The law now makes people convicted of committing that crime before they turn 16 eligible for parole after 25 years.

Massey is also eligible for parole.

Wang’s widow, Shirley, wrote a letter to Larkin that deputy prosecutor Jareb Ausserer read aloud in court Friday. Shirley Wang did not attend the hearing.

Shirley Wang said she knew Larkin had no choice but to give Harris the 25-to-life sentence, but she wanted the judge to know how Harris’ and Massey’s actions devastated her family 27 years ago.

“My late husband Paul would have been 69 years old this year, and we would have celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary,” Shirley Wang wrote. “Instead, he’s in the grave, and I’m alone. I have tried to be strong over the years, but, honestly, I am quite miserable.”

More in Local News

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

To get drug money, Lynnwood man says he cut 911 wires

Those wires happened to be the ones used by 911 dispatchers, but emergency services weren’t affected.

February trial set for suspect in deadly Marysville shooting

There had been questions about Wayne Alpert’s mental health.

Fatal car crash reported on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens

The 3 p.m. accident and investigation stopped traffic in both directions near Machias Road.

Motorcyclist killed in crash had high level of THC

A motorcyclist had more than eight times the legal limit… Continue reading

Police: Driver threatens pedestrian, ends up in drug bust

Meth, cocaine and heroin were found in his car, along with a loaded pistol and cash, police say.

Son arrested for hitting father on head at Marysville home

The father grabbed a metal rod and struck his son in the head, too. Both needed medical treatment.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Angel of the Winds pays $3.4M for Everett arena naming rights

The casino replaces Xfinity as the lead sponsor for the prominent downtown Everett events center.

Most Read