Mount Vernon murder victim’s widow seeks sentencing reform

Melanie Alvord, the widow of murder victim Randy Soderberg, is asking Washington state and Skagit County lawmakers for help in changing how sentencing is determined so old laws don’t determine sentences.
Melanie Alvord, the widow of murder victim Randy Soderberg, is asking Washington state and Skagit County lawmakers for help in changing how sentencing is determined so old laws don’t determine sentences. Getty Images/iStockphoto file

Randy Soderberg was 22 and a father of a 2-year-old when he was bludgeoned and killed in 1984 by a man who lured him to a wooded area east of Sedro-Woolley under the guise of buying a car.

In 2006 – after spending 20 years on the run and two years awaiting trial – Marcus Anthony Everett pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Soderberg’s death.

Former Skagit County Superior Court Judge Susan Cook sentenced Everett to 21 years and nine months in prison – the minimum sentence. That sentence was agreed upon by public defender Keith Tyne and former Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Seguine.

“He got a year for every year old that Randy was,” Soderberg’s widow, Melanie Alvord, said.

At the time, Alvord said she was happy for a resolution. Even though Everett didn’t get the maximum sentence, she thought he would face additional time because of other serious crimes he allegedly committed in other states.

Instead, because his 2006 sentence was done under 1984 guidelines, he will likely walk out of the Monroe Corrections Complex in May 2019, seven years before the end of the sentence handed down by Cook.

“He will be walking the streets a free man,” Alvord said. “This is a monster that should not be going free.”

Although Everett did not confess to Soderberg’s murder until 2004, he was sentenced under the guidelines that were in place in 1984, which allow him to serve only two-thirds of his sentence because of “earned early release” time, which is based upon behavior while incarerated.

Had he been charged under 2006 guidelines, he would have only been eligible for a 10 percent decrease in his sentence.

“It’s whatever sentence existed at the time the crime was committed,” said Jeremy Barclay, communications director for the state Department of Corrections. “Not the arrest, not the conviction, not the sentencing, but the original crime.”

The Department of Corrections, Alvord said, previously told her Everett has had five infractions while incarcerated, one of which added five days to his sentence.

“He’s getting out at pretty much the earliest possible date,” said Maia McCoy, the victim services coordinator for Victim Support Services in Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Everett’s early release and the lack of community custody following his release is what has Alvord concerned.

“You shouldn’t be sentenced under the laws of that time (of the crime),” she said. “You didn’t come to justice until this time. Why are we being punished because you got to go out and commit other crimes for 20 years?”

In November 2004, court records show Everett was contacted by a police officer near Puyallup regarding a theft. He later admitted to that officer that he had murdered Soderberg.

“This isn’t someone who just accidentally murdered my husband,” Alvord said. “This is someone who is extremely dangerous. If people knew what (Everett) was really about and knew that he was going to be walking the streets, they would be terrified.”

Soderberg’s remains were discovered less than a month after he went missing in a remote area off South Skagit Highway.

“To see my daughter be older than her father when we finally laid him to rest was terrible,” Alvord said.

Seguine, the former Skagit County prosecutor, told the Skagit Valley Herald that Everett was believed to be involved in other deaths.

“This person took another person’s life and lived out on the street for 20 years without facing any justice,” Seguine said. “It does not seem very fair that he would be getting out early.”

While it may be too late to prevent Everett’s release, Alvord is hoping to prevent a similar circumstance from happening in the future.

“In order to fight him now for not getting the little justice I thought I was getting at the time, I unfortunately have to keep (Everett) at the forefront of my mind,” she said. “I didn’t let (Everett) scare me into doing nothing all those years. I’m certainly not going to let it stop me now.”

Alvord and McCoy said they are working to get a case in Alaska reopened that reportedly involves Everett.

“I will never not keep tabs on him,” Alvord said.

This week, she said she will send letters to Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sen. Barbara Bailey and state Reps. Norma Smith and Dave Hayes asking for help in changing how sentencing is determined in cases such as Soderberg’s so old laws don’t determine sentences.

“I want the state to hear me,” she said. “I want them to listen to the fact that I don’t want people like this just walking out the door. People like (Everett) shouldn’t have any leniency at all. There shouldn’t be any ‘good time’ served.”

The case, and how little power Alvord has to stop Everett’s release, demonstrates a disconnect in the justice system when it comes to victims, McCoy said.

“There’s no place for the victim’s voice at all,” McCoy said. “There might be a determinant sentence for a (defendant), but there’s no determinant sentence for the victims.”

The range of a person’s sentence, called a “determinant sentence,” is based on the crime.

Thanks to Everett, Alvord said she belongs to an unfortunate “club” she never asked to be a part of – the homicide victims survivors’ club.

“Thanks to (Everett) I’m a charter member,” she said. “Everybody is one step away from belonging to this club, and with people like (Everett) out on the street you are one step closer.”

Whether or not she can change Everett’s fate, Alvord said there is work to be done during the next 14 months.

“I feel like if I’m not making noise by doing what I’m doing, then I’m allowing everyone else to be his victim,” she said. “If we get nothing else done, we went down fighting.”