Friday, November 13, 2009

Pleaded guilty

First time I ever covered a murder trial, heartwrenching experience.

Published: April 8, 2005

With the victim’s family and friends looking on, a Keizer man pleaded guilty to the October murder of a 38-year-old mother of two this week.

Ryan Lee Vetter, 30, of Keizer entered a guilty plea to murder charges Monday before Marion County Circuit Court Judge Don Dickey. The judge sentenced Vetter to life in prison, meaning he will serve a minimum of 33 years.

Police on Oct. 22 discovered the body of Patricia Ann Harkey, lying outside Vetter’s window at 860 Providence Place N., where he lived with his mother.

Deputy District Attorney Paige Clarkson said the two had known each other prior to meeting at a local Keizer bar the night of the murder.

Clarkson said Harkey willingly went to Vetter’s residence, where she was asphyxiated and her body taken outside. Vetter’s mother, who was home at the time, said she heard no struggle.

After the body was out of the home, Vetter woke his mother and told her that he may have hurt someone. “Any details other than that Mr. Vetter is keeping to himself,” Clarkson added.

In addition to pleading guilty to the murder charge, Vetter admitted to a history of similar events not related to the murder including a 1993 incident when he was accused of kidnapping and assault.

He was convicted of the crimes in 1994 and sentenced to more than five years in prison for attempting to choke a woman with a cord after driving her down a dead-end road in Keizer.

Because of the prior aggravating factors, Vetter could have been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 44 years and 9 months. The plea agreement will allow Vetter to apply for parole in 2038.

Clarkson expressed doubt Vetter would survive long enough to ever apply for parole.

Harkey’s family members offered emotional testimony to the court before the sentencing.

“(My sister) saw something good in everyone, including you, and you took advantage of it and killed her,” said Sherry McBride, Harkey’s sister.

McBride lamented the family that would have to carry on without her, and that the children “who would never get to know the beautiful aunt they had.”

Harkey’s mother, Mary McBride, recalled the victim’s birth on Mother’s Day 1966.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful gift … now there will be a hole in my heart,” she said. “I hope you never know a moment of peace.”

The victim’s daughter, Cassie Harkey, offered a rage-fueled statement to the court.

“To put it mildly, I hate you,” she said to Vetter. “My only comfort is that she is with God, while there is a special place in hell for monsters like you.”

Vetter said little during the plea hearing, responding only to direct questions from Dickey.

Dickey offered Vetter the following advice before adjourning:

“What you did will never change. But I hope you choose to become a contributing member of society in some way.”

If paroled Vetter will be required to submit to post-prison supervision for the balance of his life.

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