Girl, 15, gets 22 years for murder

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

Marriam D. Oliver might have been any other 15-year-old, polite and a little shy.

One thing that set her apart Friday was her garb of Denney Juvenile Justice Center overalls and the shackles on her arms and legs.

Another was the fact that a judge had just found her guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to prison for the next 22 years.

Oliver was convicted of participating with a woman and four other teen-agers in the brutal stabbing and bludgeoning death of Jerry Heimann, on April 13, 2001 in Everett.

Her conviction leaves only two of the cases unresolved.

Barbara Opel, 38, has been charged with aggravated murder in the death for allegedly recruiting the teens to kill Heimann to get at his bank account. Her daughter, Heather Opel, 14, also is charged with murder. The others have all been found guilty.

Oliver stood sniffling with head bent. A constant stream of tears poured out onto her face during a 40-minute court hearing in front of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Charles French.

Last month, she went to French’s courtroom with her attorney, Mickey Krom, to submit to a trial before the judge based solely on police reports and other trial information. It was certain that French would find her guilty Friday, and he did.

The move still preserves her appeal of French’s decision last fall to have Oliver tried as an adult, however. That’s significant for the length of time the state would be able to keep her behind bars.

If an appeals court decides she should have been tried as a juvenile, the state would only be able to hold her until she reaches the age of 21. Under the adult sentence handed out Friday by French, she will remain in custody until she’s 36.

In this case, the judge accepted deputy prosecutor George Appel’s recommendation to sentence her to the low end of a range established by law. The deal was worked out after extensive negotiations.

But Heimann’s daughter, Colleen Muller, argued for a longer prison term.

"My family continues to struggle with my father’s murder," she told French, adding the Oliver was part of the plot to kill her father from the beginning.

She also noted that the evidence indicates it was Oliver who took a baseball bat to Heimann’s head after he was unconscious from blows delivered by others.

The teens were promised various things by Barbara Opel to participate in the crime, according to prosecutors. Oliver was supposed to receive money to go to a skate park.

Marriam Diane Oliver, the defendant’s grandmother, who raised her, shed tears as she spoke to the court.

"God knows I’ve done the best I could" in raising her, she said. "I’m truly sorry. I am. If I could take (her granddaughter’s) place, I would. Marriam is a beautiful child."

Attorney Krom called the case a tragedy from every possible perspective.

French told the younger Oliver he hopes she takes advantage of schooling and other programs in prison so she will be prepared for life when she’s released.

You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447 or send e-mail to haley@heraldnet.com.

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