Man gets 17 years for drug killing

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A Lynnwood man’s sentencing for manslaughter became an object lesson Monday in the danger and risks of illegal drugs.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry sentenced Carlos Robert Rivers, 30, to roughly 171/2 years in prison for the June 1999 shooting death of Jamie McMurray, 19.

Rivers admitted killing McMurray during a drug deal that somehow went terribly wrong. It ended with McMurray, a drug dealer, dead from two .38-caliber bullet wounds and Rivers nearly bleeding to death after much of his arm and shoulder were blown away by close-range shotgun blasts. The shotgun was fired by Sarah Hinckley, McMurray’s girlfriend.

Castleberry said the case offers a stark glimpse into the real world of trafficking in drugs.

"The lifestyle of drugs brings robbery, brings murder and brings death," he said.

Rivers’ sentencing brought a close to a case that had twice baffled Snohomish County jurors.

Prosecutors had charged Rivers with first-degree murder, alleging the gunplay erupted when Rivers tried to rob McMurray of drugs and money at the young man’s south Everett home.

The defense countered that Rivers hadn’t planned any misdeed and that he was the victim of heavily armed paranoia.

Jurors in December and April listened to two weeks of testimony in the case before deadlocking on the murder charge. In the first trial, the jury found Rivers guilty of a related, but separate assault charge involving the attack on McMurray. The assault count was included in Monday’s sentence.

The manslaughter plea agreement was struck in May as lawyers on both sides prepared to take the case to trial a third time. In the plea, Rivers acknowledged that he "recklessly caused" McMurray’s death.

Castleberry said he knew that emotions are still running high in the case, but he believed the plea was an appropriate resolution. His sentence for Rivers followed recommendations agreed to by both sides.

Hinckley told Rivers there were days she wished that she had killed him instead of causing gunshot wounds that have forever left Rivers unable to use his right arm and hand.

"I don’t think he has any idea of the damage that he’s done to so many people," she said.

Rivers’ stepfather, Roosevelt Bennett, said that while Rivers broke the law, many people contributed to a situation by mixing guns, drugs and greed.

"There’s a lot of wrong here," he said. "There’s a lot of pain here. There’s a lot of hurt that can never be healed."

Rivers told the judge that he had no violent intent when he went to McMurray’s home carrying a handgun loaded with just three bullets. He said he admired McMurray because he was "a good businessman, as far as dealing dope" and handling money.

Rivers also said he is remorseful and that he sometimes wakes up crying because of his actions.

"I hurt my family. I hurt their family," he said.

Rivers’ attorney, public defender Pete Mazzone, said his client is headed to prison for years and can expect to spend a lifetime imprisoned by the damage that night of gunfire caused to his body and soul.

But Rivers’ plight is nothing like McMurray’s, deputy prosecutor Ron Doersch said.

"There is no prison like the grave," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431or send e-mail to

north@heraldnet.com.

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