Murder victim’s family loses faith as accused killer takes plea deal

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by HAYLEY GUENTHNER & KREM.com

KREM.com

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 5:10 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.--A Spokane murder victim’s family said Wednesday that their faith in the justice system is blown as one of the accused killers has been offered a plea deal.

Detectives said Heather Cassel was murdered and kidnapped by Gary Stoddard and Jon Ritchey one year ago. Recently one of Cassel’s accused killers was offered a plea bargain deal that could make him a free man, according to family.

Ritchey was set to be in court in March for his plea hearing.

The Cassel family said they were told there is not enough evidence to convict Ritchey of murder.

Records show the plan is to have Ritchey plead guilty to first degree rendering criminal assistance. He could get a sent4ence ranging from six months to a year because of his lack of criminal history, according to officials.

Since Ritchey has already served a year waiting for trial, the Cassel family said they fear he could be back on the streets sooner rather than later.

“You could be in a bad mood and she'd walk in the room and make you life. She always had a smile on her face. I called her my sunshine child,” said Cassel’s mother, Caroline Wilson.

Cassel lost her life on March 11, 2013. That is the day she was brutally murdered, found with a handcuff on and riddled with gunshot wounds.

READ: Suspect's ex feels responsible for Spokane woman's murder

“I always thought I'd be the one who would die before my children. To lose my child in that manner, it was my worst nightmare,” said Wilson.

Spokane detectives arrested Stoddard and Cassel’s ex-boyfriend and father of her son, Ritchey for the murder.

Wilson said she was told there was not enough evidence to get Ritchey on the murder. She said she was told a guilty plea for first degree rendering assistance was their best bet.

“I will no longer have any faith in the justice system again,” said Wilson.

READ: More alleged victim's of Spokane murder suspect come forward

Wilson said the pain of the plea makes the family’s grieving process even worse.

What Ritchey will be sentenced to is up to a Spokane judge. Wilson said she hopes he gets the maximum sentence of ten years.

Stoddard was still scheduled to go to trial for Cassel’s murder and kidnapping.

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