Dori: Killer could soon go free despite ‘3 Strikes’ sentence; prosecutor blames state Democratic lawmakers

Jul 28, 2022, 6:32 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2022, 8:55 am

Left: Roy Russell, Right: Chelsea’s grandmother, Sylvia Johnson, at right, holding a photo of Che...

Left: Roy Russell, Right: Chelsea’s grandmother, Sylvia Johnson, at right, holding a photo of Chelsea. (Photos by The Columbian and The Associated Press)

(Photos by The Columbian and The Associated Press)

On Wednesday, The Dori Monson Show spoke with the grandmother of a teen girl who was strangled by a felon previously released from his first “Three Strikes, You’re Out” sentence by Washington State Court of Appeals.

And now, the Vancouver, Wash. attorney who prosecuted Roy Wayne Russell, Jr., for the 2005 killing, says “he’s livid” that state lawmakers have enacted a law that could free Russell – again – in four years.

“I am sickened. I am livid. And I am mad as a citizen, as well as a practitioner,” former Clark County prosecutor Jim Senescu told Dori on Thursday.

Senescu, who is now in private legal practice, described Russell’s criminal history and the murder of Chelsea Harrison, then 14. Dori’s listeners first heard of the case Wednesday when he interviewed Chelsea’s grandmother, Sylvia Johnson.

“It’s a long and sad and very horrible story,” described Senescu, who recalls the 2006 sentencing judge telling Russell that he was “the poster boy for the Three-Strike Act.”

Russell was freed from his first “Three Strikes” sentence in 2001 even after he was convicted of arson in 1998 for setting his former girlfriend’s Vancouver apartment on fire. When Clark County prosecutors tacked this case onto Russell’s 1979 robbery and 1982 kidnapping convictions in Arizona, Washington state put him behind bars for life.

The state appeals court, however, vacated Russell’s first “Three Strikes” sentence when the judges decided that his Arizona kidnapping felony conviction didn’t correspond to the same charge here. That freed him in 2001.

Four years later, Senescu told Dori, Russell, then 46, was hosting parties at his Vancouver duplex for 12- to 18-year-olds. At one party, after other guests left, Russell “raped, assaulted and murdered – strangled – Chelsea in the basement of his home, dumped her naked, upside-down in the shower, flooded his basement and fled.”

Arrested two days later, Russell was convicted of three counts of homicide in 2006. Again, Russell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release under the “Three Strikes Act.”

But in 2019, the Legislature removed second-degree robbery from the state’s list of most-serious offenses. And in 2021, lawmakers made the change retroactive. The result: Russell has avoided “Three Strikes” for the second time and is now eligible for release in about four years.

How did this happen? Dori asked the former prosecutor.

“We can thank Washington state Senators (Jeannie) Darneille (Tacoma); (Mona) Das (Kent); (Patty) Kuderer (Bellevue); (Bob) Hasegawa (Seattle); (Marko) Liias (Lynnwood); (Rebecca) Saldaña (Seattle); (Jesse) Salomon (Shoreline) and (Claire) Wilson (Auburn) for sponsoring Senate 5164,” Senescu said.

The bill – now law – not only changed second-degree robbery from a serious “Three Strikes” offense going forward, “but they went one step further:” they made it retroactive.

With that, Russell is on track to complete his 16.5-year sentence, dodge the “Three Strikes Act” and be released from prison in about four years.

Changes to the criminal justice system like this are “absolutely nuts. It’s crazy and especially in the last few years, it’s gotten out of hand. The pendulum has swing way too far.”

If, in four years, Russell is freed and back on the streets, Dori asked, “do you have any doubt that he is going to commit more crimes?”

“I can’t speculate,” Senescu replied, adding that if the past is a future indicator, “I wouldn’t want him in my neighborhood.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Dori Monson stage show...

MyNorthwest Staff

Watch: Dori Monson’s ‘What are the Odds?’ stage show

In 2019, Dori Monson hosted a stage show - 'What are the Odds?' - which introduced you to the people who helped shape his improbable career.

5 months ago

Dori Monson welcomes the Moose back to KIRO. Follow @

MyNorthwest Staff

A collection of the all-time best Dori Monson stories

With the passing of Dori Monson, a collection of some of his top stories to remember all the hard work Dori brought to Seattle.

5 months ago

Alaska, fishing...

KIRO Newsradio staff

Listen: Friends, colleagues offer tribute to KIRO Newsradio’s Dori Monson

All day Monday, KIRO Newsradio's John Curley talked to friends, news makers, and more in tribute to Dori Monson.

5 months ago

Dori Monson Shorecrest...

Dori Monson Show

How to support charities reflecting Dori Monson’s values, passions

In tribute to Dori Monson, learn more about how you can support these three charities which best reflect his values, passions, and advocacy.

5 months ago

Dori Monson Nicole Thompson...

MyNorthwest Staff

Broadcasters, politicians, coworkers and friends remember Dori Monson

Dori Monson, a longtime KIRO Newsradio host, passed away Saturday. He is remembered by public figures, broadcasters, coworkers, and listeners.

5 months ago

Dori Monson...

MyNorthwest Staff

Longtime KIRO Newsradio host Dori Monson dies at age 61

We are deeply saddened to announce Dori Monson's sudden passing on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at a Seattle hospital.

5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

Dori: Killer could soon go free despite ‘3 Strikes’ sentence; prosecutor blames state Democratic lawmakers