Sable Rodriguez listens to victim impact statements during his plea hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Feb. 15, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sable Rodriguez listens to victim impact statements during his plea hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Feb. 15, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett man gets 14 years for killing ex-roommate with shovel

In March 2021, Sable Rodriguez was having delusions when he drove to the house Eric Lisenbey used to let him stay.

EVERETT — Sometimes, Tina Bowling holds the urn carrying her son’s ashes because it’s the only way she can hug him.

Since Eric Lisenbey’s unexpected death, a day doesn’t go by that’s not filled with sorrow.

“I talk to my son daily as I look toward heaven,” Bowling said. “Some days I cry so hard, I can’t breathe.”

On Wednesday, her son’s killer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for beating to death his ex-roommate, Lisenbey, with a shovel in Everett. Sable Rodriguez was sentenced Wednesday to over 14 years in prison in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Lisenbey had been letting Rodriguez stay at his house in 2021 in the 7500 block of Juniper Drive, but recent frightening behavior caused Lisenbey to kick him out. A few weeks later, on March 7, 2021, Rodriguez went to the house again, according to court papers. Witnesses reported the two men got into an argument. Rodriguez attacked Lisenbey with a tool that looked like a wrench. Lisenbey grabbed a shovel to protect himself, but Rodriguez took it from him, according to the police.

Witnesses tried to stop Rodriguez, but he threw them off. He beat his ex-roommate to the ground with the shovel, repeatedly hitting him in the head and neck, according to prosecutors.

One witness called police. Rodriguez drove away. Officers arrived at the house to find Lisenbey suffering from severe injuries to his head and neck, according to a police report. Two days later, he was pronounced dead at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He was 32.

Rodriguez had no prior felony convictions.

Under state sentencing guidelines, the defendant faced between 10½ and 18⅓ years in prison. Prosecutors and the defense both recommended a sentence in the middle of that range.

The defense argued the crime was a result of Rodriguez’s mental illness issues. Months before the murder, Rodriguez was acting increasingly erratic. He was having psychotic delusions in the days leading up to killing Lisenbey, his defense attorney Natalie Tarantino wrote in court documents. A few weeks before the murder, he was shot in the stomach in an attempted home robbery. He reportedly thought the homeowners were trying to hurt his family.

Tina Bowling, the mother of Eric Lisenbey, becomes emotional while listening to victim impact statements during Sable Rodriguez’s plea hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Feb. 15, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Tina Bowling, the mother of Eric Lisenbey, becomes emotional while listening to victim impact statements during Sable Rodriguez’s plea hearing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Feb. 15, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Following a competency evaluation, Rodriguez met the criteria for not guilty by reason of insanity, prosecutors wrote in court filings.

On Wednesday, the courtroom walls were covered with paintings Lisenbey made. Lisenbey’s friends and family pleaded with Judge Miguel Duran to give the defendant a longer sentence.

An emotional Judge Duran said he listened to every statement made by family and friends before he came to his decision.

“I have seen the Eric who was a visual artist, I have seen the paintings shared, and there is no question that there was a beautiful soul who was behind that work. A soul who won’t be able to complete his own painting,” the judge said. “There is no way that this system, flawed as it is, can make right the loss of a human life.”

As he handed down the sentence, Lisenbey’s friends and family in the courtroom held back tears.

The defense accepting the resolution meant Rodriguez wanted to accept responsibility, since he could have gone to trial and not served any prison time with a successful insanity defense, Duran said. The court has to put aside its emotional empathy and meet the requirements of justice, he said.

“You have a whole lot of life ahead of you,” Duran told Rodriguez. “And since Eric does not, my strongest possible recommendation to you is to not become the person feared today, but to become the person that someone as gentle and wonderful as Eric Lisenbey thought you could become.”

In court, Rodriguez expressed remorse.

“It took me months before I realized the ramifications of what I had done,” Rodriguez said. “I’m truly sorry at what happened to Eric.”

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486;; Twitter: @EDHJonTall.

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