Finch improves, but doctors are doubtful

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A double murderer who attempted suicide Oct. 25 at the Snohomish County Jail continued to show signs of improvement Wednesday, but doctors remain doubtful about his chances for survival.

Charles Ben Finch, 51, remains unconscious and paralyzed at an Everett hospital. He’s hooked up to life-support systems, including a machine that is breathing for him, and overall is "very critically ill," Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry was told Wednesday.

Doctors have been able to coax some improvement in perilously low levels of oxygen in Finch’s blood, a problem that surfaced Sunday after an infection began attacking his respiratory system, the judge was told.

But the steps being taken to treat Finch have potentially dangerous side effects, Dr. Jeffery Winningham said.

"There is a slim chance that perhaps there could be some improvement that may continue, but looking at everything in general, it’s still a high mortality situation for Mr. Finch," he said.

Finch was gravely injured after he jumped from a second-floor balcony inside the county jail in Everett. He was being held there during his second sentencing trial for the August 1994 murders near Cathcart of sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard and Ronald Modlin, a blind man.

The trial was nearing completion when he jumped. Castleberry has ruled that nothing will happen with the case before Friday, at the earliest, with the hope that Finch’s medical outlook will become clearer. The judge has been getting daily updates from the defendant’s doctors.

Finch was convicted of the murders and sentenced to die in 1995. But the state Supreme Court tossed out the sentence in 1999 because jurors had seen him in handcuffs and a nylon hobble. The underlying convictions were not affected.

The sole question in Finch’s new trial was whether he should receive a death sentence or life in prison without possibility of release.

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