Jenson Hankins addressed the court during his resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jenson Hankins addressed the court during his resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Man gets reduced sentence for 2003 Marysville ambush murder

“I’ve wanted to apologize for a long time,” said Jenson Hankins, who was 16 when he killed John Jasmer near Marysville.

EVERETT — The case of Jenson Hankins has haunted Anita Farris for nearly two decades.

In 2004, as a Snohomish County Superior Court judge, she sentenced Hankins, of Seattle, to 27½ years in prison for killing John Jasmer, 16.

She remembers Jasmer’s distraught mother speaking at that hearing.

So when Hankins appeared before her Thursday morning for resentencing, she didn’t need to refamiliarize herself with the case too much.

But a lot has changed about how courts should treat young defendants since the early 2000s. Farris said Thursday she sentenced Hankins, 16 at the time, as if he was an adult without much consideration for his youth.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.”

In 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled judges must take age into account in juvenile cases. The decision, known as Houston-Sconiers, originated out of a Pierce County case where two teens were sentenced to decades in prison for robbing trick-or-treaters on Halloween. That decision and others are part of a broader reform movement to give more leniency to younger people, whose brains are still developing.

Hankins is just the latest defendant to get a reduced sentence for a Snohomish County murder committed as a teenager. In a few cases this year, judges have changed life sentences without the possibility of parole to imminent freedom.

On Thursday, Farris decreased her original sentence for Hankins to 20 years, with possible credit for time served that could signal his release shortly.

Michael Jasmer, brother to John Jasmer, cries during the resentencing of Jenson Hankins at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Michael Jasmer, brother to John Jasmer, cries during the resentencing of Jenson Hankins at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The ‘J Crew’

Jenson Hankins and his co-defendant Joshua Goldman, 17 at the time, had been planning to kill John Jasmer for over a month, the two teens told police after the murder.

Hankins had just finished his sophomore year of high school.

The teens were members of what they called the “J Crew” — for the first letter of their first names. The group was defined by hyper masculinity and violence as a form of retribution, according to court papers.

Hankins believed Jasmer had sexually assaulted a friend, his defense attorney wrote in court documents at the time. Hankins went to his grandfather for advice on what to do. The grandfather reportedly suggested beating up Jasmer.

“People get murdered all the time,” the grandfather said, according to court records.

On Aug. 20, 2003, Hankins and Goldman dug a grave in the woods near Marysville. It was 6 feet long and about 3½ feet deep. It took a couple hours to dig.

The next day, the two teens picked up Jasmer. They told him they were going to get some marijuana. The three of them walked into the woods. As they approached the gravesite, Hankins hit Jasmer in the head with a hammer from behind, according to court papers. He told police he swung twice. But even after being hit, Jasmer fought back, Hankins reported. Goldman tried to stab Jasmer, but instead cut Hankins’s thumb.

[Why Snohomish County’s youthful murderers are being resentenced]

Goldman then stabbed Jasmer in the upper neck or chest, the 17-year-old told investigators. Hankins stabbed Jasmer in the stomach, too.

“John was still alive but, he was dying slowly, he was bleeding a lot and he was suffering, so I just covered his face,” Goldman reported.

When the two were sure he was dead, they took $110 from him and put him in the grave. They retrieved shovels from their car to bury Jasmer. They burned their clothes and knives somewhere else.

After the slaying, Hankins told Jasmer’s mother he didn’t know where her son was, Jasmer’s brother Michael said in court.

Both Hankins and Goldman later acknowledged killing Jasmer. Less than two weeks later, Snohomish County prosecutors charged both with first-degree murder. According to his current defense attorney, prosecutors offered him a plea agreement: concede to second-degree murder and agree to a 20-year sentence. He didn’t take it.

Under sentencing guidelines, Hankins faced between 22 and 28⅔ years in prison. Farris sentenced him to 27½. Goldman got 25.

Jenson Hankins’ father Mark Hankins becomes emotional while addressing the court during his son’s resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jenson Hankins’ father Mark Hankins becomes emotional while addressing the court during his son’s resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘Way too late’

While incarcerated, Hankins received his high school diploma and has worked as a barber in prison, according to court documents.

In 2014, he started restorative justice workshops at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen. In his 18 years incarcerated, Hankins has reportedly only had a couple minor infractions. A psychologist found he posed a low risk of future violence.

Farris said she had rarely heard of someone with this record of rehabilitation in prison.

Wearing a blue button-up shirt with dark slacks and glasses Thursday, Hankins, now 35, stood across the courtroom from Michael Jasmer with the chance to apologize for the first time. Earlier, the family had pleaded with Judge Farris to maintain her original sentence.

“During those 19 years of good that he’s done, he’s created that pain just as much,” his other brother Bill said. “That pain hasn’t gone away one bit. He’s created more pain every day. Every birthday, he created pain. … What could you have possibly done that’s going to make that OK?”

Hankins thanked them for speaking, saying that “your perspective gives me perspective.” He called himself a coward and said he was “disgusted” with himself. Standing in the audience, Michael Jasmer cried.

Hankins recalled getting a letter from Jasmer’s sister a decade ago and not being able to respond because he wasn’t allowed to be in contact with the victim’s family.

“I’ve wanted to apologize for a long time, and I know that it’s too little too late,” he said. “Way too late.”

With all the talk of his youth, he noted Jasmer was just a kid, too.

“I know it’s never going to go away,” Hankins said, speaking of the pain. “I know it’s always right there. It’s there for me too.”

The victim’s mother died a few months before the resentencing, Michael Jasmer noted.

Prosecutors pushed for a revised 24-year sentence. Hankins’s public defender, Alexandra Manno, asked for under 19 years. Farris decided on 20.

“I sometimes have defendants who say they’re sorry or apologize, but to tell you the truth, I don’t see a lot of remorse in defendants,” the judge said Thursday, but Hankins showed a “mature respect for the feelings of the family of the victim and a true guilt that I think will haunt him throughout his life.”

Upon release, Hankins plans to live with his father in Seattle. He has high hopes. He wants to work as an electrician and study Spanish and economics. He wishes to get involved in labor activism and volunteer to help Spanish speakers with immigration paperwork. And maybe he will join a recreation flag football or rugby league.

Through tears, his father told the judge he’s prepared for Hankins to come home.

“I have his room ready.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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