By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – For the first and maybe the only time, a courtroom of spectators this week got to hear Ryan J. McCarthy’s description of what happened inside a single-story house on Wings Way very early on the morning of August 21, 2010.
Ryan J. McCarthy
After he and John Booth Jr left, three people including a teenage boy were dead, and a woman lay on the kitchen floor bleeding, all from gun shots to their heads.
McCarthy, now 30, was sentenced this week for his role in last summer’s events in the Salkum-Onalaska area home.
Late last summer, prosecutors charged both men with all three murders, saying it didn’t matter which one pulled the trigger.
Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told a judge in court earlier this month that Booth fired the shots and “Mr. McCarthy was there.”
On Wednesday, as McCarthy appeared in Lewis County Superior Court in Chehalis for sentencing following a plea agreement, his lawyer said that was pretty much the extent of his client’s role, he was present.
Olympia defense attorney Rick Cordes told the court McCarthy didn’t commit the crimes he was charged with, the crimes he pleaded guilty to, or the crimes he was being sentenced for.
“If he was guilty of anything, it’s because he didn’t choose his friends right, who to be loyal to,” Cordes said.
McCarthy and former Onalaska resident Booth were both picked up and jailed after the shooting deaths of David West Sr. 52, his son David West Jr., 16, and a friend Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle. Denise Salts, then 51, who also lived at the house, survived a gunshot wound to her face.
McCarthy had just been released from prison less than a month earlier. The Redmond resident and Booth were former cell mates.
From the beginning, authorities have been saying the men’s visit to the house was related to some kind of debt collection and gun fire broke out when West Sr. brought out a shotgun and told them to get out of his house.
Cordes told the judge Wednesday afternoon that when West. Sr. said that – “You two m***** f****** get up and get out of here,” that’s what McCarthy did.
“He pushed his chair back, got up from the table and ran outside,” Cordes said. “He was outside when he heard shots fired.”
Cordes said McCarthy ran back in, but turned and left and was outside when a final shot was fired.
“He didn’t touch anybody, he didn’t shoot anybody,” Cordes said.
And he passed a lie detector test that confirmed his story, according to Cordes.
Cordes said his client entered into the plea agreement because nobody knows what jury will do, and he faced the possibility of life in prison if he were convicted.
“The fact that he’s getting 14 years is a black eye on the criminal justice system,” he said.
Prosecutor Meagher didn’t offer the court on Wednesday his reasoning for plea bargaining, but Judge Richard Brosey spoke of what he supposed was a concern prosecutors had about going to trial.
“One problem, it’s not a crime just to be there,” Brosey said. “The state would have to show a person did something to facilitate the crime.”
McCarthy pleaded guilty three weeks ago, per the plea agreement, to first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and attempted extortion
He did so under doctrines under which he pleaded guilty to crimes he did not commit to escape consequences of more serious charges, and agreed if a jury heard and believed the state’s evidence, he would likely be found guilty.
When family members and one victim addressed the court before the sentence was actually handed down, it was clear they didn’t care authorities were no longer accusing McCarthy of murder.
Dan Williams, brother of Tony Williams, raised his voice and demanded McCarthy look at him as he spoke to the court.
“I lost my brother, my best friend,” he said. “You knew what was going on.”
A woman who identified herself only as “Dee” read a statement which spoke of savage animals of society and called for “an eye for an eye”.
“Dee” spoke of having to explain to Tony Williams’ 13-year-old son there are bad people in the world.
“Even life without parole is too good,” she said.
Jodi Porter traveled from her home in Eastern Washington to tell how the death of her teenage son, David West Jr., has affected her family.
“My granddaughter has nightmares about bad people coming in and killing her whole family,” Porter said. “I want justice to be served.”
When Judge Brosey spoke to McCarthy, sentencing him to 14 years plus three months in prison, he called the events of Aug. 21 a total waste, with three people who are dead, and not coming back.
“Most glaring and most disgusting is, none of this needed to happen,” Brosey said. “There’s no reason to be playing this game of going out and collecting money.”
Extorting money involves risk, and this nonsense needs to stop, Brosey said.
“If you choose to associate with people such as Mr. (Robert) Russell and Mr. Booth, you pay the consequences,” Brosey said.
The judge noted the defendant insisted he was no more than a “co-attendee”, but added since there will be no trial, “we’ll never know the truth.”
The one member of the household who survived, Salts, was not satisfied with the plea agreement, saying it’s as though the system has forgotten three people died.
Salts addressed McCarthy directly, presumably her first opportunity since he and Booth were inside her home 13 months ago.
“What you have done is taken away something that is a part of my life,” Salts said. “Dave, his son, my best friend.”
“I’ve got so much anger for you right now, I can’ even begin to tell you,” she said.
“You’re just a waste of time, of space,” Salts said. “Do you have any remorse? Are you not sorry?”
McCarthy hesitated, but finally responded to her repeated direct questioning.
“The truth is, I didn’t do nothing,” McCarthy said.
“The truth is, you were there,” Salts said.
“Every day I miss my best friend, Dave,” Salts said. “They might as well have taken mine (life) too,” she said.
McCarthy was transferred out of the Lewis County Jail yesterday, to prison.
His attorney has said McCarthy will not testify against Booth, or anybody.
Booth’s trial is scheduled for the beginning of November.
For more details about the plea agreement, read “Breaking news: Plea agreement for “accomplice” in Salkum triple slaying means about 14 years” from Wednesday Sept. 7, 2011, here