Ryan Rafter appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Ryan Rafter appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of Everett father

In April 2022, Ryan Rafter, 42, shot Christopher Buck, 29, to death after breaking in to his home to steal drugs.

EVERETT — Trying to wake her dying father as he slipped away is one of the last memories Christopher Buck’s 4-year-old daughter has of him, prosecutors wrote in court documents.

Buck, 29, was killed in front of her.

Almost two years later, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Edirin Okoloko sentenced Ryan Rafter, 42, on Wednesday to life in prison without parole for shooting Buck to death in his home, in a drug robbery that turned deadly.

After a trial that lasted over two weeks, a jury on Feb. 13 convicted Rafter of aggravated murder. Prosecutors showed security footage of the killing. Jurors deliberated for half a day.

“What was depicted in front of the jury and to this court is what appeared to be a cold-blooded killing,” Okoloko said. “The child, who is tugging at the dying father trying to rouse him, as his life seeps away from him, shows how horrible this was.”

The jury also convicted Rafter of first-degree robbery and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Before the trial, the defendant pleaded guilty to residential burglary and unlawful firearm possession, for breaking into a man’s apartment in the same complex and stealing his wallet and phone.

Rafter had eight previous felonies. In June 2017, Rafter was sentenced to over five years in prison for three counts of residential burglary, theft of a firearm, second-degree theft, second-degree identity theft, second-degree trafficking in stolen property and attempting to elude police.

In February 2022, he was released from prison.

Two months later, Rafter and two acquaintances went to Buck’s apartment in the 7700 block of Timber Hill Drive. Buck, 29, lived there with his partner, according to the charges.

One of the acquaintances babysat Buck’s children. She and another woman stopped by Buck’s apartment to drop off his kids, according to court documents. Rafter followed far behind.

The babysitter handed over the children, while the other woman stood outside the apartment, security footage showed.

Less than 10 minutes later, Rafter, wearing a high-collared jacket, gloves, a hat and sunglasses, walked past the woman and into Buck’s apartment. Rafter planned to rob Buck’s partner for her drug stash, prosecutors wrote. According to court documents, she was a dealer who had $40,000 worth of heroin in the apartment.

Rafter entered the bedroom, threatening to kill Buck and his partner, who held her infant daughter.

Footage showed Rafter pushed over Buck’s partner with her daughter in her arms. The charges say he then lunged at Buck, ripped a backpack from his hands and shot him in the head. Rafter fled in a white Toyota Camry.

Buck died of his injuries the next day. Days later, police found and arrested Rafter in downtown Everett. In his backpack, police found a block of heroin, 10 bags of fentanyl, a small bag of methamphetamine and a scale, prosecutors wrote.

Deputy prosecutor Melissa Samp recommended a life sentence without parole for the murder. Under state law, in almost all cases, defendants convicted of aggravated first-degree murder must be sentenced to life in prison.

“Defendant sentenced two entirely innocent children to a life without their father,” Samp wrote in court filings. “He deserves to serve the same term in custody.”

Defense attorney Kenneth Williams wrote in court papers that Rafter turned to a life of crime after losing his house and job.

“Ryan once lived a law-abiding and productive life and still has things to offer to his community following his debt to society,” Williams wrote. “Ryan should be granted the opportunity for parole.”

In a letter to the judge, Buck’s mother said she couldn’t talk about him in the past tense, because that would mean he’s gone.

“I’m forever lost, I don’t expect it to get any better for me,” she wrote. “This is my life now, full of sadness each and every day until I get to see him again.”

Rafter declined to speak in court.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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