Court affirms 50-year sentence for rape, murder

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

When David Dodge was sentenced to prison for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old Stanwood girl in 1998, the judge gave him 62 years.

The state Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the judge had relied on improper reasoning for doling out the exceptionally long term, which was beyond the state’s guidelines for sentencing.

In 2000, Dodge came back before Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry and was given a term of a little less than 50 years.

Again, Dodge’s attorneys appealed, complaining that the sentence was still too long. But in a decision issued this week, the appeals panel said it was not, said Seth Fine, an appeals attorney in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office.

Dodge, from Camano Island, was 17 in September 1997 when he walked away from a group home where he was serving a Juvenile Court sentence for burglary. He was considered an escapee when he fled to Stanwood, broke into a home and bludgeoned Ashley Jones to death with a stick.

The girl had been babysitting just a few doors away from her own home.

At the time, Castleberry reasoned that an exceptionally long sentence was deserved because one of the children Ashley had been caring for witnessed the assault.

At the time of his second sentencing, his lawyer argued for a 31-year term, while prosecutors figured the judge could impose 61 years and stay within state guidelines. Castleberry, who said he didn’t want to subject family members to more painful sentencing hearings, settled on 50 years.

Dodge pleaded guilty to burglary, second-degree rape and first-degree murder. His case led to increased scrutiny of youth group homes for juvenile offenders.

Second Chance, the organization that ran the youth group home, later closed the home near Lynnwood from which Dodge escaped, and a second one it used to run in Mountlake Terrace.

In a civil suit, Ashley’s family and the parents of the children where the crime occurred have argued that Dodge should have been housed in a secure institution instead of being placed in a location where he could escape.

You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447

or send e-mail to haley@heraldnet.com.

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