Twenty-five years after a Portland woman was killed in her home, a suspect is heading to prison.
Michael Garrett entered an Alford plea to a charge of manslaughter, meaning he is not admitting to being guilty of the crime but admitting there is evidence that could convince a judge or jury to convict him.
He is accused of killing Loretha Williams, a 30-year-old mother, in September 1988. Family members discovered Williams, who had been stabbed and strangled, in her home on the 1300 block of Northeast Junior Street.
"I think it's a healing point for the whole family. I think it's a start. It's a way to put a piece of the past away," said Loretha Garner, Williams' daughter, after Garrett's sentencing Monday afternoon.
Forensic evidence led cold case detectives to Garrett, who was arrested in 2008.
"[Another] detective has submitted a lot of evidence to the crime lab and he had actually gotten the DNA hit for Michael Garrett, which came from the lamp cord that was used to strangle Loretha Williams," said Detective Jim Lawrence.
Lawrence said DNA for a second suspect was found at the crime scene. That person remains unidentified.
Garrett and his family continue to maintain his innocence.
"I feel that he made the right decision to take this plea because he was afraid of a jury trial," said Shirley Alexander, Garrett's mother. "And I think we all know why. They hear one word - and that's what they focus in on. I've been on my juries before. But my son did not do this and we will still continue to try to find new evidence to clear him."
In a letter Garrett wrote to the Williams family, read aloud in court by one of his attorneys, he apologized to the family but did not admit involvement in her death.
"I'm sorry about what happened to Miss Williams because no person deserves to die in that manner. I don't know that one could ever find closure in a situation such as this," the letter reads. "If, by the power that may be, we as humans owe it to the Williams family to give all it takes to assist in every fashion imaginable in order to make that happen. I, Michael Garrett, would sincerely like to make that happen more than you could possibly ever understand."
Williams' sister, who was put on speaker phone to address Garrett, had harsh words for him.
"Michael Garrett, you will never understand what you stole from this family," said Beverly Harvey. "Nor did I expect you to. You are a coward, a monster, a murderer."
Family members still have questions about why Williams was killed and if others were involved.
"I think that sometimes that you enter a plea that says, ‘I'm guilty but I'm not quite ready to own up to it yet.' I think that's a growing point too, a personal growing point," said Garner. "But I hope over time if he is guilty that he steps up to the plate and gives more information, if he can."
Garrett was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He will get credit for the four years he's spent behind bars and will be eligible for early release in the final year of his sentence.
Detectives continue to investigate Williams' death and would like to identify the second person whose DNA was found at the crime scene.
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