Finch’s prognosis is ‘quite grim’

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A convicted double murderer continued to hover near death Tuesday, prompting a Snohomish County judge to put off any action in his sentencing trial until his medical condition becomes more clear.

Charles Ben Finch, 51, apparently attempted suicide Oct. 25 by leaping head first from a second-floor balcony at the county jail in Everett. He was being held there during his second sentencing trial for the August 1994 murders near Cathcart of a sheriff’s sergeant and blind man.

Finch was paralyzed by the fall and has developed an infection in his lungs that is limiting the amount of oxygen in his blood, despite being hooked up to a machine that is breathing for him.

Despite around-the-clock care at an Everett hospital, Finch’s prognosis is "quite grim," and in all likelihood, "we’re probably looking at a matter of days in terms of his survival," Dr. Jeffery Winningham told Judge Ronald Castleberry Tuesday morning.

Finch has shown some improvement since his condition began worsening Sunday evening, but not enough to give his physicians much hope that he will survive or avoid brain damage from lack of oxygen. Winningham said doctors will continue to treat Finch over the next couple of days, but he added, "If there is not significant improvement, I think it would be appropriate to discuss this further with his family."

Castleberry sent jurors home until Friday, telling them it would be inappropriate for the trial to move forward until more is known about Finch’s medical condition.

"It would not be fair to you. It would not be fair to the attorneys. It would not be fair to Mr. Finch," the judge said.

Tuesday marked the third time Finch’s trial has been postponed since his fall.

Jurors had listened to nearly three weeks of testimony about how Finch murdered sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Kinard, 34, and a blind man, Ronald Modlin, on Aug. 15, 1994.

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.

Jurors originally had been scheduled to begin deliberating on Thursday. But they were sent home for the weekend after Finch’s Wednesday evening suicide attempt, and sent home again on Monday after his condition worsened.

Finch had been let out of his jail cell and was walking alone to the shower when he climbed atop of a second-floor railing and hurled himself over a drop of about 15 feet. He crashed into a wall and landed on his head and neck, according to court papers.

When police searched his cell, they found a calendar date book with the word "Dead" entered for Oct. 25.

Hours before his leap, Finch had made a personal pitch for mercy in his case. He also said he was sorry for the "terrible thing" he’d done to Kinard and Modlin.

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