EVERETT — Two of the eight men convicted in connection to the 2002 killing of Rachel Burkheimer will get out of prison early, a Snohomish County judge ruled Friday.
Matthew Durham and Maurice Rivas, both of Lynnwood, were originally sentenced to roughly 26 years in prison for their part in the 2002 murder of Burkheimer, 18, of Marysville.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel on Friday ruled the co-defendants’ prison terms be lessened to 22½ years, followed by two to three years of probation.
The reduction comes after court rulings that recognize people in late adolescence or early adulthood deserve more leniency because their brains are still developing. Durham was 17 at the time of the killing. Rivas was 18.
A state Supreme Court decision last year opened the door for the potential resentencing or release of some convicts. Under a decision in the case State v. Monschke, judges must consider the age of defendants in sentencing.
Burkheimer was shot to death by her possessive ex-boyfriend John “Diggy” Anderson. The seven other men convicted in her killing played substantial roles in carrying it out.
Prosecutors alleged Burkheimer was tricked into going to a south Everett duplex, where she was beaten, tied up and held for hours. Eventually, she was kidnapped, forced into a duffel bag and driven out to the Cascade foothills near Gold Bar. She was forced to kneel in a freshly dug grave.
Durham, now 37, admitted to driving Burkheimer to the scene of her death off Reiter Road in east Snohomish County. Rivas, now 38, admitted to assisting in Burkheimer’s kidnapping, digging her grave and being present at her shooting. In 2004, both defendants pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and testified as witnesses for the prosecution.
Burkheimer’s only sibling wept as she stood and addressed Judge Appel in a court hearing Friday, arguing Durham and Rivas knew what they did 20 years ago was wrong.
“This was not an, ‘Oopsie, I drove drunk and hit someone,’” the sister said. “This was premeditated murder. There’s a huge difference. My 10-year-old knows this was wrong.”
She told the court she has suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress and panic attacks ever since she lost her sister. She asked the judge to consider her statements when making a sentencing decision.
“Trauma is a prison you never get to escape,” the sister said. “… I want out. Is somebody going to let me out? No. We don’t get to shorten how long Rachel is dead.”
Deputy prosecutor Julie Mohr and defense attorney Jeffrey Ellis presented an agreed recommendation that the judge shorten the sentences of Durham and Rivas to 20 years. This would have given them the chance to be released from custody by the end of the year.
Durham and Rivas apologized to Burkheimer’s family when they addressed the judge.
“I know there’s nothing I can do to bring Rachel back,” Durham said. “But I can make a difference in the world, and I’ve done so while I’ve been in prison.”