Clallam County to see $500,000 reimbursement from state for Stenson trial costs
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Clallam County Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger was largely responsible for securing $500,000 in state funds as partial reimbursement for costs incurred in the Darold R. Stenson double-murder case. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The state will reimburse Clallam County $500,000 of the $1.1 million spent to prosecute and convict again double murderer Darold R. Stenson in 2013 in what became the most expensive legal case in county history.

The funds are included in the supplemental state budget passed by the state Legislature and signed last Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Sophia Byrd McSherry, deputy director of the state Office of Public Defense, notified county Administrator Jim Jones and county Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger of the reimbursement earlier this week.

The funds are annually awarded to mostly smaller counties and drawn from the state general fund under the 1999 Extraordinary Criminal Justice Costs Act, McSherry said Wednesday.

The amount Clallam received “is not unprecedented, but it is on the large side, in large part because the Stenson trial was so darned expensive,” she said.

Clevenger submitted the county’s application for compensation in December, a month after Stenson, 62, was convicted a second time for premeditated, aggravated murder in the March 25, 1993, shooting deaths of his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner.

The state Supreme Court overturned Stenson’s first double-murder conviction in May 2012.

In applying for the funds, Clevenger submitted an 11-pound binder brimming with 922 pages of expenses and supporting documents.

The costs were incurred by Superior Court, the Sheriff’s Office, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the county jail.

The county spent $106,839 on the case in 2012 and $998,651 in 2013 but was eligible only for 2013 expenses, McSherry said.

Clevenger said the majority of costs were related to Stenson’s defense.

She learned Tuesday that the money was on its way.

“I was quite pleased,” said Clevenger, a 40-year county employee.

“It was a bundle of work, and I was actually afraid the state might be out of money.”

Clallam County was lucky there were so few other applicants, Jones said.

Mason County received $48,000 and Klickitat County $49,000, but King County’s claim for $2 million was denied.

Clallam received “far and away the greatest amount,” McSherry said.

“That’s probably because the impact on the county was greater than other counties.”

In 2013, the county’s cost for the Stenson case equaled 9 percent of the combined $11.2 million operating budgets for the four affected departments.

State Sen. Jim Hargrove, whose 24th Legislative District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County, advocated the appropriation, he said Wednesday.

“It really wasn’t a hard sell,” said Hargrove, the Senate’s ranking Democrat and the party’s lead budget writer.

“It was such a large issue for a small county, it would have caused a lot of problems.

“It wasn’t like I had to wrestle people to the ground on it.”

The Stenson case was likely the most expensive case in county history, said senior Superior Court Judge George L. Wood, in his 22nd year on the bench.

“I can’t think of anything that cost us that much,” he said.

The appropriation “is a huge benefit,” Jones said.

“Instead of spending a million [dollars], we spent $500,000.

“We got very fortunate to get that much.”

Clevenger raced the clock to submit the application for the funds by mid-December after a Kitsap County jury convicted Stenson for the murders Nov. 12, Wood said.

“I really give her a lot of praise for putting it together,” Wood said.

“This wouldn’t have happened without her.”

Stenson is serving a mandatory life term at Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla.

Incarceration at Walla Walla cost the public $122.82 a day in 2012, according to the latest figures available from the state Department of Corrections, agency spokesman Will Mader said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 10. 2014 6:57PM
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