Sentence revised to 50 years in rape-murder case

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

A Camano Island man who raped and murdered a 12-year-old baby sitter in 1997 will wind up with a 50-year prison term.

That was the sentence imposed Thursday by a judge in the second sentencing of David Dodge.

"I do not want to put anyone through the agony of this sentencing again," Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry said before delivering his decision.

Dodge’s first sentence in 1998 of around 62 years was overturned by the state Court of Appeals. The appeals panel decided that Castleberry at that time improperly relied on certain facts to impose a harsher sentence than called for under state sentencing guidelines.

This time, Castleberry took a cautious approach in deciding how to add up the punishment for Dodge’s offenses and stay within the rules set by the appellate court.

The appellate court ruled that Castleberry had been correct in using only one reason for an exceptionally high sentence. That reason was the trauma a 4-year-old boy underwent when he saw Dodge rape Ashley Jones a few feet away from him.

Shaving 12 years off his term was, in effect, an early birthday present for Dodge, who turns 21 today.

He was just 17 in September 1997 when he ran away from his job in Lynnwood and the supervision of a youth group home where he was serving time for a burglary. He was considered an escapee when he fled to Stanwood, broke into a home and bludgeoned Ashley Jones to death with a heavy stick.

She had been baby sitting a few doors away from her home, and her father was one of the first people to see his daughter’s battered body.

As he did in 1998 during Dodge’s first sentencing, father Steve Jones spoke emotionally to Castleberry before the judge imposed the sentence.

"He took advantage of a situation and crushed my daughter’s skull," Jones said.

Jones carried a large photograph of Ashley and showed it to the judge. Several friends and family members in the courtroom wore lapel buttons bearing Ashley’s photo.

Ashley’s mother, Debra, stood with her arm around her husband while he talked. He sometimes broke down and apologized to the judge for not being composed.

"If you had to live with what we live with every day, you’d be a little loose, too," Steve Jones said.

Dodge pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree rape and three counts of burglary for multiple entries into the home.

Jim Townsend, chief criminal deputy prosecutor, figured Castleberry could give Dodge up to 61 years in prison and still stay within the guidelines established by the law and the Court of Appeals.

Defense lawyer Neal Friedman asked for a sentence of about 31 years, half the original sentence.

"I think the judge took a very conservative and safe route," Townsend said. "He’s obviously concerned that we don’t do this a third time."

Still, it’s a long sentence, Townsend conceded.

"We think (the law) could have supported more, but the judge felt differently, and that’s what he’s paid for," the prosecutor added.

Friedman said he’s disappointed in the amount of time the judge gave Dodge. In giving him an exceptionally high sentence, Castleberry doubled the amount of time the defendant could have received on the rape count under state guidelines.

However, the defense lawyer is pleased that "the court did what the appellate court asked him to do" in calculating a sentence.

"The important thing is the rule of law prevailed," he said.

Friedman said he doesn’t know if Dodge will appeal the long sentence. Even with time off for good behavior, Dodge would be well into his 60s before he is released.

Dodge’s parents were in the courtroom, but they declined comment.

Steve Jones said no sentence would make him happy.

"There’s no closure," he said. "Every day you live with it. Every day you deal with it. Every day you think about what you saw."

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