34-year term in 2006 Brier slaying

It was a case of two young lives being lost.

Jay Clements is dead, gunned down in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 2006, outside a home in Brier where a Labor Day weekend party had been held.

Noel Caldellis, 20, of Seattle was sentenced Wednesday to spend his best adult years behind bars for firing the shots that killed Clements, 21.

A judge imposed a 34-year prison sentence for Caldellis after a Dec. 11 jury verdict that he acted with “extreme indifference to human life” when he fired a .357-caliber pistol into a crowd, hitting Clements twice.

The sentence from Sno­ho­mish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne is near the low end of the sentencing range for Caldellis’ convictions of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree assault.

Under state law, the sentence includes additional time because a deadly weapon was used.

The sentencing came during a lengthy hearing in front of a standing-room-only crowd that included friends and family members of both young men. A few members of the jury who convicted Caldellis also attended.

“What you did … will have a lasting effect on your family members as well as yourself,” Wynne told Caldellis.

His attorney, Raymond McFarland of Seattle, asked the judge to consider that Caldellis has had a good character and no previous criminal activity. McFarland pointed to dozens of letters of support submitted on Caldellis’ behalf.

McFarland also asked the judge to impose a sentence below the standard range, a 31-year term, the lowest possible sentence under the law.

Deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter argued against a term below the standard range.

“Character has been an issue in this case since Day One,” Hunter said. “Time and time again we’ve heard what a great guy the defendant is. He may have been a great guy. He may still have some great qualities. But that is no reason to give him a lesser sentence.”

Hunter asked for a 38-year term.

Clements, a University of Puget Sound senior who was raised in Mukilteo, came home from school for the holiday weekend. His mother told the judge that her son called her to say he planned to go river rafting and then attend the party in Brier. He was running late, so he didn’t come home to dinner the evening before the shooting, she said.

Karen Clements told the judge that her son was an excellent snowboarder and an amateur photographer. He was generous and passionate about people, animals and nature, she said.

“He packed a lot of life in his 21 years,” she said, but her son had a lot more to do.

Caldellis “should have a long time in prison … to contemplate what he has done,” Karen Clements said.

Caldellis’ mother also addressed the court. Her son wanted to apologize to the Clements family, and wrote them a letter on Thanksgiving Day a few months after the shooting.

The letter was never delivered because of the pending trial and other legal ramifications, McFarland said.

Sherri Caldellis read it to the judge Wednesday. In it, Noel Caldellis said he wishes the Clements family could get to know him before they passed judgment on him.

Her son is not a hardened criminal like others convicted of first-degree murder, Sherri Caldellis told the judge. She said Wynne should take that into consideration.

“If there was ever a case that calls for mercy, it’s this one,” Sherri Caldellis said.

Wynne made it clear that the shooting was not simply a “reckless” act, and it wasn’t an accident.

The jury convicted Caldellis after a five-week trial.

Caldellis was with a group of young men who went to the Brier party to fight someone there. As soon as the group arrived, several fistfights broke out.

Caldellis told police he fired his gun twice in the air to disperse the crowd and to protect his friends. The next two shots went into the crowd, killing Clements.

When he was shot, Clements was attempting to break up the fights.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or jhaley@heraldnet.com.

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