Following a two-week hearing, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Williams rejected on Friday, April 16, Sequim-resident Darold R.J. Stenson’s allegations that the state withheld evidence at his trial 16 years ago.
His findings are being sent to the Washington Supreme Court for determining Stenson’s conviction. He faces the death penalty.
The Supreme Court tasked Williams with making factual determinations about Stenson’s latest challenges concerning the aggravated murders of his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner.
Stenson’s defense suggested former prosecutor David Bruneau and detective sergeant Monty Martin committed misconduct.
Williams said nothing was found to support that allegation, and he believed Stenson’s defense had acted timely in challenging the gunshot residue evidence admitted at trial.
Williams found that information uncovered by the defense last year would not have changed the outcome of the trial because forensic evidence placed Stenson close to Hoerner when he was killed.
He believed blood spatter evidence — combined with Stenson’s financial motive, opportunity, and other evidence — established such a strong case that complete exclusion of gunshot residue evidence would not change the result.
Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly said that the Supreme Court might call for briefing and/or oral argument on the two petitions or dismiss them outright.
“It has been 17 years since Stenson committed these two heinous murders,” she said.
“Given that he has been before the U.S. Supreme Court and before the Washington Supreme Court on five prior occasions, the victims’ friends, family, and our community are entitled to a prompt and final resolution of this case.”
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