EVERETT — A third and final defendant has been sentenced in the death of a homeless Everett man who was tied to a tree and left to die in the cold.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss sentenced Darron Weidman to five years and one month in prison for setting in motion a robbery that resulted in the death of Michael Boone, 46. Earlier this month, the same judge ordered his co-defendant, Donita Burkley, 35, to serve three years and five months behind bars.
In the hours before New Year’s Day 2019, Boone told Weidman — who was Burkley’s friend and “protector” on the streets — that he would pay cash for sex with Burkley, according to court papers.
Near downtown Everett, they set up the deal, but Burkley had no intention of following through. Another man, Matthew McGowan, 28, joined in a plot to steal from Boone. The group watched Boone check his ATM, and saw he only had $6. Still, they decided to take whatever he had on him.
As they walked south on Broadway toward Boone’s camp, Weidman split off with a plan to grab a knife. Instead, he got high at his own camp, according to the charges. Meanwhile, Burkley walked into the woods behind the Evergreen Cemetery with Boone.
Detectives believe McGowan charged out of the darkness, striking Boone with a stick, choking him and tying him to a tree with his own belt. In a police interview, Burkley acknowledged rifling through Boone’s jacket pockets while he was tied up, begging to not die. Temperatures dropped to the 30s. A passerby found Boone’s mostly unclothed body days later.
“I can’t think of a worse way for somebody to die,” the judge said in court Tuesday. “Mr. Boone knew what was happening to him. He tried to get up — the evidence for that, although it was objected to during Mr. McGowan’s case repeatedly, it was clear. There were snow angel feet marks in the ground, from him trying to get up, trying to loosen his arms, and he couldn’t do it.”
On the witness stand during his trial, McGowan denied carrying out the attack, in spite of Boone’s DNA being found at his home.
Weidman, 42, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in April 2019. He was in the Snohomish County Jail for months pending sentencing, and he testified at McGowan’s trial in November.
Burkley did not testify at the attacker’s trial. Police reports say she walked past the graveyard hours after abandoning Boone but did not check on him. In a sentencing memorandum, defense attorney Jon Scott wrote that Burkley endured abuse both as a child, as a teen and as an adult, and that pattern of trauma left her “pliable” and disassociated from acts of violence.
“Where others might be compelled to act or sound the alarm,” the defense attorney wrote, “Ms. Burkley was instead compelled to sink deeper into herself, to try to forget, and to try and move forward as though nothing had happened.”
Burkley pleaded guilty on May 1 to second-degree manslaughter and second-degree robbery. She wrote a brief letter of apology to Boone’s family.
“I am sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to help him when he was being attacked by Matt McGowan,” she wrote, “and I’m sorry that I didn’t help him afterward by calling someone to help him. … I am sorry for what I did and for what I failed to do.”
Weidman apologized to Boone’s family, too, as they listened to the proceedings over a video phone call Tuesday.
“I’m sorry for what happened to your son,” he said. “I really am. There’s nothing words can say.”
Weidman said he knew he’d been labeled a “snitch” and that he’d have to live with that stamp in prison, for testifying in court.
“But that was the right thing to do for Michael Boone and what happened to him,” he said. “With that, everyone, I’m sorry.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.