People rally against resentencing of Vancouver teen’s killer
CLARK COUNTY, Wash. (KPTV) - People rallied outside of the Clark County Courthouse Wednesday morning to raise awareness about the potential future release of a man convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl.
Chelsea Harrison was just a teenager when she was strangled to death in the Vancouver home of Roy Russell. Russell was found guilty of her murder in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Russell’s sentence was thrown out earlier this year because of a change to Washington state’s three-strike law.
Previously under that law, people who were convicted of three violent felonies had to be convicted of life in prison. Now, second-degree robbery convictions are no longer considered one of those felonies. That was one of Russell’s priors.
Jim D. Sensescu, a prosecutor on the case back in 2006 and now attorney for the Harrison family, describes the moment they found out their daughter’s killer could possibly be released.
“Just shock and awe. They still are questioning, is this real? Is this really happening?” Sensescu said.
The news not only impacting the family of Harrison, but parents across the Vancouver area.
Jeremy Baker, a father of four, lived just two blocks from where Harrison was murdered.
“That little girl was strangled in that basement, and she was left there without anyone,” Baker said. “The victim’s family really needs to be brought into this conversation.”
This isn’t the first time Russell beat Washington state’s three-strike law.
Back in 1998, he received his first life sentence in Washington for multiple felonies, including kidnapping. But because the kidnapping happened in Arizona, it did not qualify as a strike under state law. Russell’s sentence was overturned in 2001, and he killed Harrison just four years later.
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After her murder, the state passed the “The Chelsea Harrison Act” to close the loophole to the three-strike law and now include felony convictions in other states.
Former State Senator Don Benton says he spent years fighting to pass The Chelsea Harrison Act. He now feels his efforts were in vain.
“I’m sickened over it. I’m just so sad, not only for the family but for the rest of the citizens in our community,” Benton said.
Russell is scheduled to be resentenced next month.
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