Centralia man gets maximum prison term for sexual abuse, death of toddler

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm
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James Maurice Reeder enters a packed Chehalis courtroom to be sentenced for the death of 2-year-old Koralynn Fister.

Updated at 1:56 p.m. and 4:22 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – James M. Reeder was given 37 and a half years to life in prison this morning for the rape and death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter last year at her Centralia home.

The 26-year-old Centralia resident made no statements to the judge before the sentence was handed down.

Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler gave Reeder the maximum allowed, given the the charges Reeder was convicted of pursuant to a plea agreement. While Reeder had pleaded guilty, he did so without admitting any wrongdoing.

The judge said he would have given more time if he could.

“I didn’t hear, but I can imagine, her screams and her cries as she was tortured by you,” Lawler said. “I wish I wasn’t limited by the statute, I wish I wasn’t limited by these charges.”

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Koralynn Fister

Reeder kept his head turned downward and his slightly hunched back to the benches filled with family members, police detectives and others.

Koralynn Fister died last May in Centralia. Reeder claimed he stepped away to get a towel while giving her a bath and returned to find her face down in the tub.

The little girl died from drowning and four severe blows to her head, prosecutors said today. Authorities arrested Reeder that night after evidence of sexual assault was discovered.

Defense attorney David Arcuri noted that advocacy was of very little value at this stage, but asked for “tempered justice” and a sentence with a minimum of 28 years.

He noted the plea deal included trade offs, with a benefit to the state in that it avoided a protracted trial and the secondary impacts upon responders who dealt with the little girl.

Koralynn’s mother Becky Heupel sat next to her daughter’s father in the front row behind prosecutors.

In a statement read to the court for her, Heupel spoke of how she felt betrayed by her then live-in boyfriend pretending to help her with her child.

“You made me doubt my own sanity by your evil act,” Heupel wrote. “I pray that God gives you whatever he feels you deserve.”

Another victim’s advocate read a statement from Koralynn’s father, David Fister.

Fister said nothing short of life in prison would suffice, calling Reeder a coward who preyed upon the weak.

“Koralynn meant everything to me and my family,” the advocate read.

The case began on the afternoon of May 24 when Reeder carried the naked and unbreathing child to neighbors across the street from her house off of West Oakview Avenue asking them to call 911 while he attempted CPR.

The mother and her 4-year-old daughter had left the home about three hours earlier.

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead told the court today the toddler’s body temperature was roughly 85 degrees, that she was dead. Information from the investigation would lead a reasonable person to believe an extended period of time had passed, Halstead said.

Evidence indicated she was penetrated by some object both in front and behind that day and another time previously, according to Halstead.

Her rectum was ruptured and her body had injuries such as bruises including on her hands, missing toenails and her bottom was basically raw down to the muscle, consistent with rubbing over time, he said.

Reeder had explanations such as the dog jumping on her toes, the child running around barefoot and also said that she would slide down the gate to her bedroom, Halstead said.

The defendant had moved into the household about 10 weeks earlier and soon began isolating the toddler; suggesting he would take care of the 2-year-old and the mother could take care of her older daughter, Halstead told the judge.

“He’d change her diapers and give her baths, so nobody else really knew what was happening to Koralynn during this time frame,” he said.

Reeder pleaded guilty in January, after a deal was struck, to homicide by abuse, second-degree assault, two counts of first-degree rape of a child and possession of methamphetamine. He made a so-called Alford plea in which he acknowledged a jury hearing the evidence would likely convict him, but admitted no guilt.

The unemployed former floor installer subsequently attempted to withdraw his plea, but the judge denied his request.

Prosecutors today recommended the high end of the standard sentencing range for each of the offenses, to run concurrently.

Halstead asked for, and the judge agreed to, 450 months which is 37 and a half years, for the homicide by abuse.

The sentence for the rape conviction is for an indeterminate length of time with a maximum of life. A board, like the former parole board, will be responsible for deciding when and if he gets released after he’s served the minimum number of years.

Homicide by abuse is described by prosecutors as repeated assaults or torture that ends in the death of a child. It has the same maximum penalty, life in prison, and the same standard sentencing range as first-degree murder, according to Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer.

Halstead noted Reeder didn’t cooperate with the pre-sentencing review conducted by the state Department of Corrections.

Reeder has no felony criminal history.

Judge Lawler noted, but didn’t read aloud, letters from Reeder’s sister, mother and grandmother, saying he accepts the person sitting before him is not the person they know.

Lawler told Reeder, after reciting graphic excerpts from charging documents, he should be thankful for the deal his attorney managed to get him, with the dismissal of so-called aggravators such as the victim being especially vulnerable.

Lawler said he agreed a jury would have likely found him guilty.

“Had those aggravating factors been found, I would have imposed a sentence that would have been probably 100 years,” he said.

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Family and others listen as James Reeder is sentenced for child rape, homicide by abuse, assault and possession of methamphetamine.

•••

For background, see selected previous news stories:

• “Update: Centralia police investigating death of toddler, arrest one” from Thursday May 24, 2012, here

• “Centralia toddler death: Sibling taken into protective custody” from Friday May 25, 2012, here

• “Breaking news: Mother’s boyfriend held for investigation of rape, murder of Centralia child” from Friday May 25, 2012, here

• “Mother’s boyfriend now faces drug, rape and homicide charges in death of toddler” from Tuesday May 29, 2012, here

• “Father of Centralia toddler who died speaks out” from Saturday June 2, 2012, here

• “Mental evaluation: Suspect in death, rape of Centralia toddler found competent for trial” from Tuesday July 10, 2012, here

• “Koralynn Fister: Attorneys to argue over evidence prior to homicide by abuse trial” from Thursday December 13, 2012, here

• “Defendant in Koralynn Fister death pleads guilty” from Wednesday January 9, 2013, here

 

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18 Responses to “Centralia man gets maximum prison term for sexual abuse, death of toddler”

  1. There's coffee & maple bars says:

    I see James Reeder’s stay at Stafford Creek was for him, unfortunately a short one. He is now housed at the big house. The end of the line…WALLA WALLA.

  2. BobbyinLC says:

    Now that some of the sordid deatils have come out publically it is sort of easier to understand why a plea deal was reached to save jurors from having to not only hear the details but see the pictures. The horros suffered by this angel are unspeakable.
    I have heard many say he should have received teh death penalty but for that to happen Meyer would have had to charge murder I whihc requires proof of premeditation beyond a resaonable doubt. If that cannot be proven then this scumbag could have been acquitted.
    What is scary is that in 37.5 years he will go before a board to determine if he is eligible for release. He will be in his sixties and by then I am sure will have “found God”, be able to show his remorsefullness, yadda yadda.
    Unfortunately the prison system is bound by case law to provide as safe an environment as possible for him and if he is MacNeil island he will be with outher sexual predators who have committed similar crimes.
    KoraLynn you deserve the peace and happiness in heaven youw ere denied during your shiort time on earth.

  3. Steve says:

    I have to add that I haven’t cried in years, but when I watched the video of the sentencing, the abuse the judge described was so heart-wrenching. I just don’t understand why or how anyone could do those things to an innocent little girl. The pain and fear she endured must have been horrible, she died a slow death. I don’t want to know what goes through a person’s mind, to be able to do these things to another human being. I don’t want to believe that he enjoyed abusing her, but what other conclusion is there?

    For those of you who are wondering, in prison child killers are the lowest of the low, and yes all the other inmates will know what he is in for. He threw two lives away, the girl’s and now his. Rest assured that he will suffer in prison, for at least forty years, this is not a light sentence and he will regret it every single day.

  4. 123mememe says:

    dericdeep – I am going to go out on a limb and say that not even DCE would say it was the cop’s fault in this instance. Maybe for not going after the mother, but not the cause of the child’s death and previous abuse (as by reports it looks like not an isolated incident).

    DCE, I hope that I haven’t misjudged you on this one.

    dericdeep, are you the mother, or grandmother?

  5. Disgusted (The Original) says:

    bahlsdeep – I hope you mean it when you say you will be notifying other inmates at whatever prison Reeder goes to of the unspeakable acts he committed against this innocent child. My concern would be that prison officials will censor mail like this. I hope not.

    I agree that Becky Heupel should be doing time in prison as well. Does anybody know if she is mentally retarded? I don’t say this as an insult, I truly wonder if this is the case. What else would explain her complete and utter failure to protect her baby? What kind of idiot allows someone they have known for a matter of weeks alone time with their child? Especially when he is insisting on it and is wanting to bathe her and change her diapers? What kind of mother allows this? This should have thrown up a ton of red flags. I wonder if this poor child screamed and clung to her “mother” begging not to be left at the mercy of this subhuman piece of shit? My heart aches when I think about it. It seems to me that Koralynn was failed by a lot of people that should have protected her. May she rest in peace as James Reeder burns in Hell.

  6. MyInput says:

    I would like to start off that the mother should get some time as well, who can honestly say that when taking care of their child that they don’t see some attitude changes, and you can’t tell me that ever since he moved in she not once changed her, bathed her, etc. And as a mother myself, I would find it odd to have my live in boyfriend want to do everything for one specific child and not the other, when a woman+man+children live together= family. It is a family effort to take care of the children. Okay now onto him, he is a worthless POS, a waste of space/time. I don’t know how he could hurt a poor innocent child and do such a horrific tragedy, they should make a man made island with all the sexual predators far enough away from land so that they couldn’t get back to normal civilization, give them food by parachuting it down. Just my thoughts.

  7. bahlsdeep says:

    Dericdeep’s hands are not clean. The are full of lust, shame and anger.

  8. just me says:

    so blaming the police will not do anyone any good, they cannot see into every house nor are they allowed what an assinine comment about them getting coffee. first fault falls on the wretched mother who couldn’t see what kind of a man he was, he certainly didn’t hide it, and fault falls on man, for the shameful acts in which he has commited. if you are going to point your fingers, make sure your hands are clean

  9. dericdeep says:

    If the dumb centralia cops wernt at starbucks all the time this wouldnta happen!!!

  10. Malia says:

    hope that someone in the prison knows the horrific thing you have done and makes you pay..

  11. bahlsdeep says:

    Mr Reeder,

    I wish you a warm welcome upon your arrival to which ever prison you are sent to. Once your new home is chosen, I will be sending a copy of the reports to the entire prison along with this article to assure your warm welcome. I hope some day you can man up and admit that you are a load that should have been swallowed.

    May SMFL crip walk on your grave son!

  12. Steve says:

    Die in prison
    Die in prison
    Die in prison
    Die in prison
    Die in prison
    Die in prison

  13. Wallace says:

    The mother should be charged as well.She had to have known and failed to protect her child.Have a good time in Prison Jimmy.

  14. sunshinegirl says:

    I’m with you Two Cents , Heupel should be sentenced also. Also she should have custody of nothing!! The first line of defense for a helpless baby is the folks and they ALL let this baby down!!

  15. disgusted!! says:

    What a sorry excuse for a human being!!! I hope that lIttle angels family goes to whatever parole hearings he has and speaks up so he stays in there as long as possible!! Maybe he will not be n protective custody when he gets to prison and the other inmates can make sure he feels the pain that little girl felt every day!!! Rip koralynn at least u get some kind of justice…..

  16. Disgusted (The Original) says:

    He should have received the death penalty, but that would be too merciful for this cowering POS. He is going to get what he deserves when he gets to Walla Walla or McNeil Island. Wish I could have a front row seat to that movie!

  17. My two cents.. says:

    This sorry excuse for a human being deserves far worse than what he’s receiving.. any person who can look into a babies eyes and do what he did, deserves to be tortured. I am not a violent person, but I have four kids, and God help any person who touches them or hurts them in any way. I would be the one in prison, and he would be in the graveyard.
    I’d like to know where the “mother” is, and what she’s been doing since this happened. Does she still have custody? If so, WHY??

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