Convicted of killing three people in a SeaTac-area tavern more than three decades ago, Timothy Pauley says he’s a changed man and is asking the parole board to release him from prison early.
MONROE — Thirty-five years have passed since Timothy Pauley made what he calls a “panicked” decision to open a cooler door at a South King County tavern and fatally shoot two bound employees during a robbery.
On Tuesday, Pauley bowed his head and lowered his voice as he recounted vague but grim details of the June 12, 1980, night when he and another man killed three people and left two others for dead inside the Barn Door Tavern.
Pauley, facing three members of the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board at the Monroe Correctional Complex, apologized and blamed drugs, alcohol and depression for the killings. He said he made an impulse decision to shoot the two men in the cooler, but fingered his accomplice, Scott C. Smith, for the third murder.
The board will decide in the coming weeks whether to transfer Pauley to a minimum-security facility, a precursor to early release from prison; or add more time to his sentence; or take no action.
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Pauley’s early release is opposed by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, Congressman Dave Reichert — who as a King County sheriff’s detective investigated the murders — as well as relatives of the victims.
Angie Dowell, whose father was killed and mother left for dead in the tavern, vehemently opposes Pauley’s early release. She attended Tuesday’s hearing but was not allowed to speak.
“I realize 35 years is a long time,” she said afterward, her eyes welling with tears. “It wasn’t long enough.”
Dowell said Pauley has failed to take “full responsibility” for the killings, instead offering scant details of what transpired inside the tavern. She criticized him for telling the board that the shootings inside the cooler occurred because he panicked.
“This is mass murder,” she said.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Board Chair Kecia Rongen asked Pauley why he didn’t leave the tavern before the murders if he was scared, as he claimed. Pauley was armed with a gun while Smith had a knife.
“I feel like I was manipulated in some extent to be in this situation,” Pauley told the board. “I don’t have a good answer as to why I did this.”
He added, “As soon as I picked up that gun and participated in the robbery everything was my fault.”
Pauley was 21 when he and Smith killed three people — Loran Dowell, the tavern’s night manager; bartender Robert Pierre; and Linda Burford, Pierre’s girlfriend and a former waitress — in the SeaTac-area tavern. Burford was raped and left hanging by her neck from a railing, while Dowell and Pierre were tied up in the tavern’s walk-in cooler and shot in the head, authorities said.
Two other women were choked with electrical cords and left for dead in the women’s restroom, but they survived.
Now 56, Pauley is hoping to convince the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board that his behavior behind bars over the past 35 years should earn him an early release from prison. If the board agrees, Pauley could be a free man as early as February 2018.
While in prison, Pauley has been a relatively trouble-free inmate. He has regularly worked, attended school, mentored other inmates and participated in religious activities, according to testimony during Tuesday’s hearing.
The board is expected to rule in about eight weeks.
Under state law, the board sets a minimum sentence for offenders sentenced before July 1, 1984, when Washington overhauled its criminal-sentencing system.
Pauley was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, with two of the counts to run consecutively. When he was sentenced, the trial judge did not make a recommendation as to the minimum term that should be set.
Pauley entered prison in 1981, and with time off his sentence for good behavior, finished serving his first murder term in 1999, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
He is now serving the consecutive sentences for the other two counts.
Smith, Pauley’s co-defendant, was sentenced to five life terms after being convicted of three murder counts and two assault counts. He is not facing early release.
In an interview Monday, Angie Dowell said the process has left the victims and their relatives believing they have no rights.
“In 35 years he’s never once reached out to our family to officially apologize,” she said of Pauley. “ I don’t think you can be remorseful and apologetic without fully admitting what you have done. I don’t believe, given what he did and what he put people through, that 35 years is enough.”
Heather Oie, whose parents owned the Barn Door Tavern but were not present the night of the slayings, also attended Tuesday’s hearing.
“He’s not remorseful. He’s never offered an apology to the families,” Oie said during an interview on Monday. “He took a plea bargain and was only charged with the three murders, not the attempted murders. He took this time and now he’s reneging on that promise. The people who died didn’t get a second chance.”