EVERETT — Youthy Chim and Saravouth Sun were there when Jesse Williams was killed.
It was June 9, 2005. Prosecutors said Chim, now 36, was driving and Sun, now 37, brought the guns. They, along with Bunthoeun Nem, now 40, agreed to sell two pounds of marijuana to Williams at the Lake Stickney boat launch, just south of Everett.
Except the three didn’t bring any marijuana. Instead, Nem walked up to the other car and threw a gym bag full of clothes through the passenger window, where Williams was sitting, and Nem opened fire.
Williams was hit in the chest and the forearm. He died at the hospital. He was 31.
More than 13 years later, Sun was sentenced Friday to nearly 8½ years in prison, falling in the middle of state guidelines. Chim was given two years and three months. They had pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter the week before.
The difference in sentence length was due to criminal history.
Sun has eight felonies on his record, which Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter summarized as “drugs, guns, burglaries and escape.”
Chim only had a couple of misdemeanors related to marijuana. He was released, with credit for time served in the Snohomish County Jail.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz said he also took into account Chim’s physical disability, and the unlikeliness that he would commit further crimes. The defendant appeared in court in a wheelchair, due to ataxia, a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system.
Despite the guilty pleas, the defense attorneys claimed Chim and Sun took no part in the planned robbery. They argued that the two defendants thought it was a normal marijuana deal.
“This has been a different case for me,” said Kimberly Exe, representing Chim, “because I am so confident … that Mr. Chim did not do what unfortunately your honor is going to sentence him for.”
Sun’s attorney, Laura Shaver, argued that the prosecutors’ case rested primarily on Nem’s testimony, which was provided in exchange for a lighter sentence. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in 2016. He said the other two were part of the plan from the beginning.
Shaver questioned if his word was trustworthy. Hunter disagreed with that assessment.
“It’s my position that there’s no reason to believe Mr. Nem lied about any of that,” he said.
He pointed to corroborating evidence, such as the vehicle that belonged to Chim, found shortly after the shooting. He also talked about the gym bag that presumably had marijuana in it, which bore Sun’s DNA.
The two sides’ disagreement on the matter almost led to a jury trial. The morning it was supposed to begin, Chim and Sun pleaded guilty.
Hunter acknowledged that a trial would have been complicated. He would have to persuade the jury to convict the two of first-degree murder, when the person who actually fired the gun only pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
The sentencing marks the end of a cold case that, at one time, had few leads. Williams face was featured on the 10 of Clubs in a set of playing cards that describe cold cases in Snohomish County. The decks were first handed out in jails and prisons across the state in 2008 to generate tips.
The defendants both said they were sorry that Williams died. Family members speaking at the hearing remarked on what they see as a lack of remorse.
“Myself, I’ve been suffering these past 14 years,” said the victim’s mother, Pauline Williams.
She said she used to love watching her son grow up. She would marvel at his accomplishments. But now, “because of this decision (these three men) made … I’ll have nothing but memories now.”