A lynnwood man who was sentenced in 1987 to 60 years in prison for the beating death of his 3-year-old nephew had his sentence vacated yesterday and was released. David Crane, 44, remained...

Share story

EVERETT — A Lynnwood man who was sentenced in 1987 to 60 years in prison for the beating death of his 3-year-old nephew had his sentence vacated yesterday and was released.

David Crane, 44, remained quiet and appeared unemotional yesterday as Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry told him that a recent state Supreme Court decision made it necessary to vacate his second-degree murder conviction. While Crane’s ex-wife, girlfriend and daughters were gleeful, the victim’s mother cried and offered spiteful words for the high court.

“Make no mistake, you are setting a criminal free,” Yvonne Roberts said to Castleberry. “He tortured my son. What the hell did he think he was going to do when he was whaling on my son.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Crane declined to address Roberts and her two grown children. Crane’s attorney, Neil Fox, said his client has “always maintained his innocence” and wants to put the case behind him.

The scene — victims’ relatives lashing out at the Supreme Court as their loved ones’ killers are freed — is playing out across the state with increasing frequency after a pair of state Supreme Court rulings that said defendants cannot be convicted of second-degree murder if the death was the unintended result of an assault.

In 2002, the high court overturned the conviction of Shawn Andress for killing a man during a West Seattle bar brawl. A second ruling last November placed hundreds of other second-degree murder convictions up for review.

Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Seth Fine said two Snohomish County defendants have been released from prison early because of the Andress ruling. Fine said another eight will have their second-degree murder sentences vacated in the coming months.

Last month, Noreen Erlandson was released from her 40-year sentence after serving 12 years behind bars. The Bothell nurse practitioner had been convicted of beating her 2-year-old daughter to death.

“My job is to see justice is done,” said Fine. “I think justice was done in [Crane’s] case 18 years ago; it’s very hard to see justice undone.”

Since Crane’s 1987 conviction of second-degree murder and two counts of assault, the Lynnwood man has fought for a new trial. In 1989, a state appeals court ruled Crane didn’t receive a fair trial because the jury wasn’t told they had to unanimously agree which of the assaults caused the toddler’s death. In 1991, the state Supreme Court reinstated the murder conviction.

While Fine admitted in court that he didn’t have enough evidence to show Crane had an intent to kill 3-year-old Stevie Collins, his office amended Crane’s charge to first-degree manslaughter.

Yesterday, Crane entered an Alford plea to the charge and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. By entering an Alford plea, Crane does not admit guilt but acknowledges a jury would likely convict him.

Because of the years Crane has already served and the good-behavior credit he has gained from the state Department of Corrections, Crane was able to be released within 24 hours of yesterday’s hearing, Fox said.

“I’m grateful we can end this,” Crane’s ex-wife, Theresa Crane, said after yesterday’s hearing.

Jennifer Sullivan: 425-783-0604 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com