Sentenced to three life terms in prison, a man who killed three people at a SeaTac tavern 35 years ago could be freed in about a year and a half. Among those opposed are U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
The images from a late-night call to a SeaTac-area tavern haunt Dave Reichert 35 years later.
Five people were attacked and robbed shortly after closing time at the Barn Door Tavern on Pacific Highway South. Three of the victims were killed and one, a 30-year-old woman, was raped and left hanging by her neck from a railing.
Reichert, the Washington congressman who, as a King County sheriff’s homicide detective, investigated dozens of Green River killer crime scenes, still remembers the tavern murders as exceptionally “brutal and savage.”
Within hours of the June 12, 1980, attack, Timothy Pauley and Scott C. Smith were arrested and later charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Pauley, 21 at the time, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Loran Dowell, the night manager at the Barn Door; bartender Robert Pierre; and Linda Burford, Pierre’s girlfriend and a former waitress.
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Pauley, 56, could now be freed in about a year and a half after the state Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board determined his remorse and behavior behind bars may warrant early release.
Lynn Delano, chair of the board, said it has reduced Pauley’s minimum term on the last criminal count he’s serving, making it possible for him to be a free man as early as February 2018. In the meantime, the board will decide after a hearing in September whether Pauley should be transferred from the Monroe Correctional Complex to a minimum-security facility, a move that is generally a precursor to release.
Reichert and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg are infuriated with the decision and have each written letters to Gov. Jay Inslee, urging him to revoke it.
“I assisted with processing the crime scene, interviewing witnesses, and in the arrest of the men responsible for this most violent, gruesome and monstrous crime,” Reichert wrote. “It would be safe to say that all of the investigators who worked on this case would agree this would be one of the most brutal and savage murder cases they have ever worked.”
Satterberg accused the board of “failing to do their homework” by reducing Pauley’s sentence on the final two counts of murder, first to just over 33 years then to just over 28 years. He said that if the case came before him today he would pursue the death penalty against Pauley and Smith.
When the two men were prosecuted, capital punishment had been determined unconstitutional in the state, making it impossible for then-Prosecutor Norm Maleng to seek the death penalty.
Satterberg, in his letter to Inslee, said the new minimum sentence set by the Indeterminate Sentencing Revew Board does not reflect that Pauley “essentially” committed what would today be considered aggravated murder, a crime that would result in one of two sentences — life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
On Monday, Margaret Dowell — who survived the attack that killed her husband, Loran Dowell — attended a board hearing in Olympia along with the couple’s daughters and Reichert, Satterberg and King County Sheriff John Urquhart. The family argued for Pauley to remain in prison.
“Our family never imagined that Mr. Pauley would be released from prison — at least not during our mother’s lifetime,” Angie Dowell, the slain man’s daughter, wrote in a statement released to The Seattle Times. “Mr. Pauley continues to this day to minimize his involvement in the robbery and murders. He is a master at deflecting the board’s questions about his involvement.”
Sherri Beckham, a cook at the tavern, also survived the attack. She and Margaret Dowell were choked with electrical cords around their necks and left for dead in the women’s bathroom, according to court papers.
When the two later ran for help they found Linda Burford’s nude body hanging from a railing. She had been raped, according to Reichert.
Loran Dowell and Pierre were tied up in the tavern’s walk-in freezer and shot in the head, execution-style, Satterberg said.
Delano, the head of the review board, defended its decision, saying Pauley “has been doing very, very well in prison.”
Delano said Pauley has made the most of his time in prison — mentoring other offenders, volunteering for inmate committees — and has not had a serious Department of Corrections infraction since 1995.
“He expresses extreme remorse; he took full responsibility for his actions. He acknowledges he can’t make it right,” she added.
“It’s always pleasing to the board when people are different than who they were 30 years ago. People can and do change,” Delano said.
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 in this case, according to Satterberg.
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 time for the two consecutive counts of murder and could be released in early 2018 with time off for good behavior, Delano said.
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.