EVERETT — After serving over half his life behind bars, Eric Krueger now has a chance to get out.
Krueger, of Seattle, was originally sentenced to life without parole for the 1997 fatal shooting of Ronald Greenwood and Brady Brown. Both victims were 24 and from Everett.
Krueger was 20 at the time of the shooting. He’s now 46.
Superior Court Judge Karen Moore resentenced Krueger to 40 total years in prison Tuesday, with credit for the 25 years he has already served.
A state Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door for the potential resentencing or release of some convicts like Krueger, who were younger at the time of the crime. Under a decision in the case State v. Monschke, the court ruled judges must consider the age of defendants in sentencing.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.” In Washington, the Monschke ruling extended that thinking to 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, part of a broader reform movement to give more leniency for those whose brains are still developing.
At the time of the murder, Krueger was six weeks shy of his 21st birthday.
Snohomish County has seen two others resentenced under the decision. In January, Aaron Howerton was the first to be released outright, at the age of 46. Arthur Longworth, 57, got out of prison last month.
Both had been convicted of murder.
On Jan. 12, 1997, Krueger and co-defendant Robert Anderson made a plan to kill Greenwood and Brown, deputy prosecutor Corinne Klein wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Krueger called Anderson to tell him Greenwood had “ripped him off” in a methamphetamine deal, according to court documents. Krueger then reportedly drove to Anderson’s home northeast of Marysville, where he suggested robbing Greenwood of drugs, money and stereo equipment.
The revenge plot escalated. Anderson suggested they kill Greenwood, the prosecutor wrote, and Krueger “did not indicate any disagreement.”
Krueger obtained a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a .22-caliber Uzi-style semiautomatic gun that the pair would use for the crimes.
“Under the guise of another drug deal,” Krueger contacted Greenwood several times, Klein wrote. He and Anderson picked up Greenwood and another friend, Brown.
Krueger reportedly told Anderson they needed to go back to Anderson’s home to get money for the drug deal. When they got there, Krueger left, according to court documents.
Anderson drove Greenwood and Brown a few more blocks, Klein wrote, before shooting both of them with the Uzi-style gun Krueger had left behind.
Brown was killed at the scene. Greenwood died of his injuries later in a hospital.
Both Krueger and Anderson were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated first-degree murder.
Anderson was 22 at the time of the killing. He did not qualify for resentencing under the Monschke decision.
At Tuesday’s hearing, attorney Derek Conom asked the judge to sentence Krueger to 25 years — giving him a chance of being released this year.
“His youthfulness, his immaturity and his inability to make reasoned choices — stemming from the adverse childhood experiences of his past — is and was a major factor in this case,” Conom said.
The attorney also argued Krueger was not the one who pulled the trigger. His actions the night of the crimes, rather, showed he tried to withdraw, Conom argued.
Klein asked the judge to sentence Krueger to 40 years behind bars with credit for time served, arguing he was the “architect” of the killings.
State Department of Corrections records and a defense evaluation showed Krueger “has spent 25 years in prison doing essentially the minimum of what was expected of him, just staying out of trouble and going to his work assignment each day,” the deputy prosecutor said.
Conom countered that Krueger exhibited growth: He held down a job in prison, worked well with others and mentored younger inmates.
“Eric Krueger, prior to the Monschke decision, had no hope that he would ever be released,” Conom told the judge, “because the sentencing court in 1998 said he had no hope. Yet, despite all that, he did things that you would expect to see from somebody who thought they would have a future.”
Family members of the victims attended the hearing. A few addressed the judge, saying the prospect of resentencing triggered grief they were trying to overcome.
A woman who identified herself as Greenwood’s younger sister said she has struggled to find closure.
“The feeling is just as raw as it was 25 years ago,” she said. “… The opportunity to see my brother smile, hear his laughter, get married, have children of his own, meet his one-and-only nephew Tanner, or be embraced by one of his big brother hugs all ended that night.”
Krueger addressed the courtroom and apologized to the families of the victims. He asked the judge for a chance at “some type of relief.”
“I’m not that immature kid no more,” he said. “I’m not that drug addict no more. I’ve been clean for 25 years. … I understand that the families and prosecutors don’t want me to get this chance and don’t think I deserve it because of the mistakes that were made 25 years ago. I leave it in your hands to figure out what the proper (sentence) is.”
After the judge handed down her sentence, Krueger was escorted out of the courtroom Tuesday in handcuffs, to change out of the dress shirt and tie he was wearing, back into a jail uniform.