After nearly 47 years in office, this top attorney says he's retiring

Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney David McEachran leaves an arraignment hearing on Friday, April 6, at Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham.
Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney David McEachran leaves an arraignment hearing on Friday, April 6, at Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham. evan.abell@bellinghamherald.com

For the first time since 1975, Whatcom County will have a new top prosecutor next year.

Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran announced Monday he will not be seeking re-election this fall for what would have been his 12th four-year term.

McEachran, who has worked in the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s office for nearly 47 years, said he made the difficult decision last summer. He said he has no regrets about leaving.

“I’ve been here so many years and the years are adding up. If I were younger I would keep on going, but in June I thought ‘You know, I’ve certainly had a very full career, and I’ve loved it. I think this will be my last,'’’ McEachran said. “I knew I’d finally realize when I should probably quit, but I just love the job, I love trying cases.

"Our whole goal in this office has been to protect this community and the public and I think we’ve really done a very good job with that. I think at that point I’ve served long enough.”

McEachran said he’s tried to instill a team concept between the attorneys who work in the prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement officials. Cooperation among the agencies can be critical for cases, and McEachran said he hopes those relationships continue.

“In many places, the agencies just don’t get along that well. … I think we do extremely good work here because we work as a team,” McEachran said. “I think the people we have here in this office and in law enforcement are terrific assets to the community. … I’m really happy to have been a part of that.”

Throughout his decades-long tenure, McEachran has tried some of Whatcom County’s biggest cases, including those of Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler; Stephen Carey, who in 1982 set fire intentionally to a trailer where his wife and child were sleeping, and Clark Elmore who was sentenced to death for raping and murdering his girlfriend’s daughter in 1995. Governor Jay Inslee granted a reprieve in December for Elmore's death sentence.

McEachran said several of his biggest cases also set criminal justice standards in Washington state. The case against Rodney Crenshaw, who was convicted for the 1978 murder and decapitation of his wife, set precedent for insanity defenses. The case against Jo Tharp, who was convicted in for numerous crimes including a 1978 murder, set standards for linking evidence to prove a series of crimes.

“It was a case that was like a Hansel and Gretel of breadcrumbs and I combined all of those, and it was adopted as the … evidentiary rule,” he said.

Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran explains how detectives arrested Timothy Forrest Bass, 50, of Everson in connection with the 1989 abduction and murder of 18-year-old Mandy Stavik of Acme, at Bass’s first appearance Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2

McEachran said he plans to stay in Whatcom County and continue working with a local woodworking group that builds furniture for local auctions, but said the change of pace will be different. He currently works four nights a week from his home office.

“I hope to find enough, but it’s going to be a hard transition for me. I’ve worked my entire life,” he said. “It’s going to be a real adjustment for me to go from the circus to silence and I’ll have to really figure that out.”

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Richey has announced he plans to run for the seat, as has Bellingham City Attorney James Erb. Candidates can't officially file for office until May 14.

McEachran said he plans to endorse Richey for prosecutor.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt