Shawn Gulseth first claimed he had never put his hands on a woman in a violent way. He then tried to cast blame on 45-year-old Bonnie Peterson, who he
murdered inside her Kent apartment in December 2010, saying she regularly attacked him.
Peterson was beaten, stabbed repeatedly in the face and nearly decapitated when Gulseth slashed her throat — but the 43-year-old felon insisted to a courtroom packed with her family and friends on Friday that “she didn’t suffer.”
King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas, who called Gulseth’s crime “absolutely horrific,” chastised him, saying: “Don’t delude yourself into thinking she didn’t feel any pain.”
The judge sentenced Gulseth to a top-range sentence of 35 years in prison after he pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon for killing Peterson when she attempted to end their relationship.
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Gulseth, whose trial on a first-degree-murder charge was postponed several times, entered a plea deal that was denounced by Peterson’s brother, Roger “RJ” Miller.
While Miller said his sister didn’t get the justice she deserved, he thanked the Kent police officers, who were in the courtroom, for investigating his sister’s murder and bringing Gulseth back to King County after he fled to Northern California.
King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner told the judge Gulseth met Peterson while on work release after an earlier robbery conviction. The relationship was “so destructive” that in the months before Peterson was killed, state Department of Corrections officials ordered Gulseth not to have contact with her — an order he ignored.
During the time Gulseth has spent in jail, six inmates told authorities he was attempting to persuade witnesses in the case to lie for him, Berliner said. Two of the men, who admitted they “have no love for the police” and came forward because they were so disgusted, said Gulseth bragged about killing Peterson.
Gulseth angrily interjected, yelling “objection,” and telling Berliner, “you’re accusing me of something that hasn’t been proven.” Darvas warned him to remain silent until it was his turn to speak.
Kory Bell, who was friends with Peterson for 26 years, went to check on Peterson on Dec. 21, 2010, when no one had heard from her. Bell said the horror of finding Peterson’s lifeless body in a pool of blood the morning after she was killed is an image that continues to haunt her.
“Now that she’s gone, there’s a void in my life … the family and friends she was taken from are still all trying to make sense of what happened,” Bell said.
Peterson’s elder daughter, Tricia Peterson, screamed at Gulseth and ran sobbing from the courtroom, yelling: “You son of a bitch, I hate you.”
Her younger daughter, Alina Salazar, said her mother was thrilled to learn she was going to be a grandmother again, but only got to kiss Salazar’s belly once before she was killed. Peterson didn’t get to see Salazar graduate or get her driver’s license.
“I learned from my mom: Green means ‘go,’ red means ‘stop’ and yellow means ‘go really, really fast,’ ” Salazar said, her comment providing a brief moment of humor.
Gulseth fled to California after killing Peterson.
After the California Highway Patrol received a police bulletin indicating Gulseth
might be hiding out in Willits, about 150 miles north of San Francisco, a CHP officer found Gulseth, who was living under a bridge, and positively identified him based on his distinctive tattoos.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org