YAKIMA — The man suspected of beating three people to death during a 2011 burglary at their home near Yakima could be out of prison in a little more than two years as a result of a plea deal that prosecutors now repudiate.
Kevin Harper, 31, would have faced life in prison without parole if convicted as originally charged with aggravated murder. The case crumbled in a series of missteps by sheriff’s detectives and prosecutors, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported Wednesday.
Harper was sentenced Tuesday to about nine years in prison for possessing a pistol stolen from the home. The term will be shortened by the time he has spent in jail and good behavior in prison, defense attorney Pete Mazzone said.
Yakima County prosecutors say they will ask an appeals court to repeal last year’s plea deal that allowed Harper to plead guilty to the lesser charge in return for escaping the murder charges and having an accessory charge against his wife dismissed.
Prosecutors tried to revoke the deal in the spring, accusing Harper of failing to cooperate with the investigation and saying there was new evidence.
Superior Court Judge Ruth Reukauf refused, saying the state’s own mistakes imperiled the case. The appeals court refused to step in last week, but Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Ken Ramm said after Tuesday’s sentencing that an appeal would be filed.
Harper was the prime suspect in the February 2011 beating deaths of Bill and Pauline Goggin and his 98-year-old mother, Bettye, during a burglary. Goggin was co-owner of a Yakima civil engineering firm.
Friends of the Goggins spoke at the sentencing about their sense of loss and injustice.
“The evidence suggests more to the case than is being considered,” said family friend Mike Morrisette, former CEO of the Yakima Chamber of Commerce.
Harper professed his innocence in court.
“I’m guilty in everybody’s eyes. I understand that. I did not kill your friends,” he said.
The judge condemned the seven-time felon and methamphetamine addict for being involved in a brutal crime “that has torn this community apart.”
The case against Harper was built on sand, Mazzone said. Investigators withheld evidence that supported his alibi, he said.
“Kevin is not a saint. Kevin has problems. But Kevin did not murder these people,” Mazzone said.
Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com