By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Lynnwood man escaped being charged with murder, but he isn’t dodging a lengthy stretch behind bars for the violent robbery of 91-year-old Harold Caywood, who later died.
On Monday, Patrick Hartness was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison. That’s about two years less than the low-end sentence for a second-degree murder conviction. It’s about three times longer than a standard range sentence for first-degree robbery.
Hartness, 26, mugged Caywood outside a south Everett gas station as the World War II veteran was walking toward the store to pay for his gas. Caywood, who was punched in the face and knocked to the ground, died several weeks later.
Prosecutors declined to file a murder charge against Hartness after the Snohomish County medical examiner was unable to determine if the Aug. 24 attack was responsible for the elderly man’s death. Without a conclusive cause of death, prosecutors didn’t think they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hartness was guilty of murder.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Laura Twitchell charged the case in a way that allowed for a lengthier prison sentence because Caywood was a particularly vulnerable victim due to his age.
Caywood lived on his own, still drove and enjoyed eating an early dinner at his favorite table at Applebee’s. Yet at 5-foot 3-inches tall and 125 pounds, he was obviously frail. He never would have been able to fight back, his family said.
“Grandpa Hal” was a generous man who likely would have given the stranger $20 if he’d only asked, his granddaughter Virginia Woodhouse said.
“He didn’t have to hit my grandfather,” Woodhouse said. “The offender made a choice that day and he deserves to pay for his crime.”
Caywood’s treasured independence was stolen from him, his son said. After the attack, he never returned home or drove again. His family believes the mugging eventually cost him his life.
Hartness grabbed Caywood’s wrist and punched him in the face. The defendant grabbed the money out of Caywood’s hand and left him bleeding on the ground. Witnesses reported that Hartness ran to a nearby fast food restaurant, where he holed up in a restroom stall. That’s where he stripped out of his shirt and donned his girlfriend’s tank top in an attempt to disguise his appearance, police said.
His attorney Will Steffener said his client was high on heroin at the time of the robbery.
Hartness also was wanted on warrants for a domestic violence assault and driving with a suspended license. Everett police also uncovered evidence linking the convicted felon to a series of burglaries and other crimes targeting older victims. Hartness has agreed to pay restitution to his theft victims.
When Hartness pleaded guilty earlier this month, he also agreed that he deserves more time behind bars than the standard sentencing range, which is 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison. He faced up to life in prison — an unlikely sentence for a robbery conviction.
Hartness apologized Monday, saying that for too long he’s allowed drug addiction to dictate his actions. He told the judge that he hadn’t intended to hurt Caywood.
He also said that “in the back of my mind I will always believe that I’m at fault,” for the victim’s death.
Hartness vowed to make something of his life and use his time in prison to “reshape myself into a man that’s worthy of being a productive member of society.”
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes wasn’t convinced that Hartness hadn’t intended to hurt Caywood. The defendant simply could have taken the man’s money and walked away.
“The guy out there that day didn’t much care what happened to Hal Caywood. All you cared about was the money,” Downes said.
The judge told Caywood’s family that he understands how they could feel that Hartness was responsible for the victim’s death. The law, however, only allows him to punish the defendant for his robbery conviction, not murder or manslaughter, he said.
Downes called what Hartness did “abysmal” and worthy of a lengthy prison sentence.
The lawyers had recommended a 10-year sentence. Downes said Hartness deserved more.
He told Hartness that if he’s truly sorry for his actions, he should remember the pain he’s caused and find a better way to live his life.
The judge also offered some advice to Caywood’s family and friends.
“Try not to let the awful circumstances define him or your memories of him,” Downes said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.