Dori: Family ‘wrecked’ after two-time ‘Three Strikes’ killer gets early release

Nov 18, 2022, 5:10 PM | Updated: Nov 20, 2022, 6:27 am
russell...
Roy Wayne Russell (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

A convicted killer and two-time “Three Strikes, You’re Out” offender in southwest Washington is now eligible to be freed from prison in as few as five years after a Clark County court was forced by the state Legislature to re-sentence him.

Roy Wayne Russell, Jr., 62, has twice beaten a life sentence – one of them for the 2005 murder of Chelsea Harrison, 14. Russell admits he suffocated Chelsea – but after legislative Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee changed the state’s three-strikes law in 2019, Russell’s original life sentence was vacated.

Former Clark County prosecutor Jim Senescu, who successfully tried Russell in Chelsea’s murder, told Friday’s Dori Monson Show that the lighter sentence is a “slap on the wrist” – while Chelsea’s grandmother describes their family as “mad” and “wrecked.”

Russell’s criminal history led a 2006 Clark County Superior Court judge to call him “the poster boy for the Three-Strike Act.” The former prosecutor told Dori’s listeners that 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.”

“The impact (of Russell’s new lighter sentencing) is almost worse than when she (Chelsea) was murdered,” Senescu said Friday.

The teen’s grandmother, Sylvia Johnson, told Dori that learning her granddaughter’s killer could soon go free is “the most horrible thing that anybody can endure.”

Senescu explained that with credit for 17 years he served for that crime – and with time earned for good prison behavior – Russell could be released from prison in four to five years, before he turns 70.

Despite letters she has written to lawmakers and appellate court officials, Johnson said, “I’ve heard nothing from anyone.”

The path to Friday’s resentencing is a “long and sad and very horrible story,” Senescu told Dori.

More from Dori: Teen killer to be resentenced

Russell was freed from his first “Three Strikes” sentence in 2001, even after his 1998 arson conviction 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 allowed his 2001 release.

The move freed him to return to Vancouver, where he started hosting parties for teens. 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,” according to court documents.

Again convicted, Russell was sentenced a second time 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 avoided a “Three Strikes” life sentencing a second time, opening the door to his eventual release.

Friday’s Clark County Superior Court judge told courtroom attendees that his hands were tied by the new state law, and that he did his most to maximize Russell’s sentence.

Senescu, meanwhile, blamed a cohort of Democratic state senators for sponsoring Senate Bill 5164 – now a state law that could apply to as many as 100 other offenders statewide.

“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),” Senescu said.

Johnson also criticized lawmakers for “callous” legislation. “You don’t even have the decency to talk to anybody about this. Shame on you.”

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

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

Dori Monson Show

Dori Monson

Dori appreciate Seattle City Light...
Dori Monson

Dori: I can appreciate government work every once in awhile

I love being a watchdog of government. And that includes spotlighting great work. I appreciate utility workers for their help this week.
2 days ago
kangaroo...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: Should you add a kangaroo to your Christmas wish list?

Strom – who has been raising both ‘roos and wallabies for 25 years on his preserve – had some words of marsupial-owning wisdom for Dori.
3 days ago
olympia...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: Petition calls for entire Olympia School Board to resign after appointing felon

Barely one month after four Olympia School Board members unanimously appointed a convicted felon to fill a board opening, a no-confidence petition has been posted by community members, calling for the entire board to resign.
5 days ago
crypto...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: FTX crypto scandal hits Washington bank, politicians

Unlike Bitcoin, “crypto is the Wild West” with no regulations on truth in advertising, Brewer added.
7 days ago
Apple Cup rivalry...
Dori Monson Show

Apple Cup rivalry: Couple’s ashes to be buried in UW, WSU helmets

The Apple Cup kicks off for UW and WSU this Saturday, but one married couple is taking the rivalry to their own eventual 'end zone.'
10 days ago
Tacoma carjacking...
Dori Monson Show

Dori: 9-year-old resolved to protect mom after Tacoma carjacking

Emily and her 9-year-old son tell the harrowing story of how they survived a recent carjacking at their Tacoma home.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Dori: Family ‘wrecked’ after two-time ‘Three Strikes’ killer gets early release