Stenson gets two life sentences

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Sequim resident Darold R.J. Stenson was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences on Tuesday, Dec. 10.


In November, a Kitsap County jury again found Stenson guilty of the 1993 murders of his wife, Denise Stenson, and his business partner, Frank Hoerner, near Sequim.


Stenson appealed his 1994 conviction and subsequent death sentence for 18 years before the state Supreme Court in May of 2012 agreed with his attorneys, reversing his conviction.


Tuesday Stenson said he also would appeal the more recent decision.


Before he left the courtroom, he did just that, handing in a notice of appeal.


“I will appeal this (and be) back within a year or so,” Stenson told Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor. “I will be exonerated.”


Stenson has been in jail since April 1993.


After his four-week first trial in 1994, a jury found him guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree.


But in an appeal before the Washington State Supreme Court in 2012, Stenson’s attorneys argued with FBI information and photographs that raised questions of evidence mishandling. The state Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision reversed the conviction on the grounds the state “wrongfully suppressed” the evidence. It wasn’t until 2009 that Stenson’s defense attorneys received the photographs and file.


On Nov. 12 jurors in Stenson’s second trial — one that took 22 days and saw 75 witnesses and 331 evidence exhibits, according to Taylor — found Stenson guilty of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.


Last week’s sentencing was more of a formality, as Stenson could not receive anything other than two consecutive life sentences without parole.


“My goal in this motion,” Taylor said last week, “was to make sure there was not a trial No. 3.”


In looking at evidence shown to juries in both trials and evidence not admitted during trials, Taylor said he saw no reason for any kind of leniency for Stenson.


“Our system of justice afforded you far more compassion than you afforded your victims,” Taylor told Stenson.


Prior to handing in the notice of appeal, Stenson told the court, “I did not kill my wife. I did not kill my friend. I was devastated by the verdict.”


Clallam County prosecuting attorney Deb Kelly said expenses in Stenson’s appeals have cost Clallam County well over $500,000 — less than $1,000 of that mandatory fees.


Kelly noted last week that members of both victims families have expressed to her how “the grief never ends.”


Retired county Detective Charles Fuchser, who aided Kelly in prosecuting Stenson, told the court that in becoming intimate with the details of Stenson’s case he noted, “(Stenson) never exhibited an ounce of remorse that I can tell. His defense was merely a propagation of his prior lies.”


Reach Michael Dashiell at

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