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UPDATED: Ferndale attempted murder case drives bill in Washington legislature

Recently, the Bellingham Police requested information about what is suspected to be a murder-for-hire case surrounding a crime that occurred in Ferndale nearly 3 years ago.

A man slit the throat of a Ferndale woman on May 2, 2014 in what prosecutors are saying was a murder-for-hire crime. Fortunately, the victim survived the attack but the attacker, either intentionally or by accident, fatally shot himself while police were attempting to capture him. The attacker’s wife was later arrested and found guilty of being an accomplice and is serving a 40-year term. But the suspected planner of the attack has yet to be charged and may not due to Washington State’s 3-year statute of limitations for attempted murder.

As a result, a bill is being considered during the current Washington State legislative session. The bill is currently identified as Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5810 and is sponsored by Senate Law and Justice Committee Chairman Senator Mike Padden.

The bill was originally written to remove the statute of limitations from the charge of attempted murder entirely, something only currently applied to the crime of murder. But since then, it has been revised to extend the statute of limitations from 3 to 10 years.

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Whatcom County Prosecutor David McEachran spoke during a public hearing on the bill in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice in February to explain how, after 44 years as prosecutor, he discovered the limitations for charging someone with attempted murder were in place. He pointed out had the attacker taken the victim’s checkbook and written a check, the applicable charge of theft by deception would have a 6-year limitation.

The bill has made its way through the Senate with nearly unanimous support and is stalled in the House rules committee. Proponents are concerned saying, “The bill has made it on to the house calendar, however, it has not been called for a vote. We are up against a tight timeline as the session ends on April 23rd.”

Expectations are activity in the legislature Saturday and Sunday will involve non-voting activity and a special session will begin on Monday. So proponents are hoping to get the bill voted on today.

Proponents are encouraging the public to voice their opinions about the bill by contacting House Rules Chairman Representative Frank Chopp.

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UPDATE 11:30am
The Washington State Legislature website is reporting ESSB 5810 was voted on by the House this morning and passed by unanimous vote. It now awaits being signed by Governor Inslee at which point it will become law.

According to Tom McBride of the Washington Prosecutors Association, this new law will be enacted in a matter of days even before being signed by Governor Inslee unlike most bills which are enacted months after being signed. This is due to an emergency clause included in the bill referencing public safety concerns. McBride said all attempted murder cases currently within the 3-year statute of limitations, including the Ferndale case, will now have the new 10-year limitation applied.

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