22-year sentence for Everett beating death

EVERETT — Beth Piasecki on Friday faced the parents of the man accused of stabbing her son and leaving him to die outside an Everett elementary school in late 2010.

The grief on her face mingled with compassion.

“I think you lost your son long before I lost mine,” Piasecki said. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Piasecki’s son, Donald Barker, 37, was beaten and stabbed to death two days after Christmas 2010. Two people found him dying on the ground outside Madison Elementary School in Everett. He was able to tell one witness that he’d been jumped by a few guys. He also said he was badly hurt and that he loved his mom.

A judge Friday sentenced the third and final defendant, Jimmy Ruiz Jr., to 22 years in prison. Ruiz, who had prior drug, gun and robbery convictions, likely will be in his mid-60s before he is allowed outside prison walls.

Ruiz pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon.

Prosecutors alleged that Barker, who struggled with a crack addiction, had gone to buy drugs outside Madison Elementary School. His dealer sent Ruiz and two other men, William Gobat and Patrick Griffiths, to collect a $30 drug debt.

A jury convicted Gobat of second-degree murder last year. He is serving an 18-year sentence. Griffiths, who pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Piasecki described the phone call she received in 2010 from the medical examiner, informing her that Barker was dead, a victim of violence.

“Shock doesn’t describe how I felt,” she said.

Over the past year, she and her family have been overcome by grief. Barker’s 11-year-old son is afraid of the men who killed his dad. The boy misses the nightly phone calls from his father wishing him “sweet dreams.”

Barker was a dedicated father. He helped his son with his homework and never missed a soccer game, even if it meant riding his bike from Mukilteo to Marysville.

Barker’s family asked Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry to sentence Ruiz to 28 years in prison — the maximum under state sentencing guidelines.

Ruiz had choices the night he murdered her brother, Kendra Kruse said Friday. He could have walked away or called for help. Instead he brought a knife, attacked Barker and left him to die.

“When James stabbed my brother he also stabbed the heart of my family,” Kruse said.

Ruiz’s father broke down in tears Friday as he apologized to Barker’s family for the pain his son caused them.

Ruiz bowed his head, sobbing.

The defendant later read from a statement, apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

“I know nothing I can say will make this any better. I truly wish I could take my actions back that night and not just to avoid going to prison but to give Donald back to you,” Ruiz said.

Castleberry commended both men’s parents for the empathy and sympathy that they’d shown one another. Often times people can’t see past their own grief to acknowledge how a crime has affected others, he said.

The judge said he didn’t know if Ruiz was truly remorseful for his actions or if he was just sorry for himself. Time will tell if he’s changed his ways, Castleberry said.

The defendant, however, didn’t show any remorse the night he stabbed Barker. He later demonstrated to others how he stabbed the man, the judge said.

His actions and those of the other two defendants were senseless and “fueled by drugs and three men feeding off machismo and anger,” Castleberry said. The violence is inherent in the lifestyles of those addicted to drugs, the judge said.

“They killed Donald Barker for no real reason,” he said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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