Stenson guilty again of 1993 slayings
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Darold Stenson, right, stands with two of his defense attorneys, Sherilyn Peterson, left, and Blake Kremer, during the first day of testimony in his retrial in Port Orchard in September. Stenson was found guilty Tuesday afternoon. -- Photo by The Associated Press

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ORCHARD — Darold Stenson has been found guilty again of the 1993 murders of his wife and business partner near Sequim.

A Kitsap County jury reached the verdict Tuesday afternoon following a six-week trial and six days of deliberations.

“Justice has been done,” Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said.

Stenson, 60, who in 2008 was days away from execution on death row in Walla Walla, was convicted Tuesday of two counts of first-degree premeditated and aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of Denise Stenson and Frank Hoerner at Stenson’s exotic-bird farm in the early morning hours of March 25, 1993.

He will be sentenced at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 in Clallam County Superior Court.

“We have an outstanding jury who worked very, very hard,” said Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly, who argued the case against three attorneys for Stenson’s defense.

“They’re one of the best juries I’ve seen.

“I’m just very grateful for the support we received from the Sheriff’s Department and all the different agencies.”

At trial, Kelly argued that Stenson killed his wife for insurance money and shot Hoerner because Stenson owed Hoerner money and ostriches.

Lead defense attorney Roger Hunko of Port Orchard said in closing arguments that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stenson committed the murders.

Kelly said the trial was “very hard fought on both sides,” and “very difficult” and “very emotional” for the jury.

Stenson spent 14 years on death row and was eight days away from being executed by lethal injection when a judge issued a stay of execution in November 2008.

His 1994 conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court in May 2012 and remanded back to Clallam County for a new trial.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor granted a partial change of venue and presided over the trial in Port Orchard.

Stenson — who was to be transported back to Clallam County jail on Tuesday, Benedict said — now faces life in prison without parole.

Kelly said she was cautiously optimistic that the jury would return guilty verdicts.

“I always thought our case was very strong, but a jury could always do anything,” said Kelly, who noted that the case was 20 years old and had some missing evidence.

“I don’t count my chickens before they hatch.”

Kelly said the timeline of the events surrounding the shootings was such that “nobody else could have conceivably done it.”

She credited the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, including retired detective and part-time investigator Chuck Fuscher and former Sgt. Monty Martin for their help with the case.

“There were a lot of people who put a lot of work into this, Kelly said.

“The FBI folks, a number retired sheriff’s employees, retired PenCom (Peninsula Communications) employees — many, many people made this possible.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 12. 2013 5:42PM
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