Ari Lee King

Ari Lee King

Ari Lee King sentenced to 18 years for murder of Joyce-area resident Diane Cunningham

PORT ANGELES — An apologetic Ari Lee King was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison for the murder of Diane Cunningham.

King, 42, pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to second-degree intentional murder for beating Cunningham to death with a car jack in her Joyce-area home in September 2014.

Cunningham was 65.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly on Monday accepted the sentence recommended by county Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin and defense attorney Loren Oakley.

Melly said he could not articulate a sound basis to deviate from the recommended sentence.

Tamra Wilson discovered her mother’s body in her blood-spattered residence at the Salt Creek RV Park on Oct. 6, 2014, she said Monday in court.

An autopsy showed that Cunningham died of blunt force trauma to the head.

“She didn’t deserve to die,” Wilson said, facing King.

“Nobody should ever have to die like that.”

Clallam County sheriff’s detectives said Cunningham had been dead for about nine days when Wilson and her boyfriend found the remains.

“Do you know what it smells like after a body’s laid in a room for nine days?” Wilson asked King.

“I do. It haunts me. I’ll never get that out of my head.”

Cunningham was last seen on surveillance video from 7 Cedars Casino and at the Port Angeles Walmart on Sept. 27. There was no sign of forced entry to her home.

“My mom trusted you,” Wilson told King.

“She thought you were her friend. The last few minutes of her life were just terrifying.”

King apologized to Wilson as she concluded her remarks.

“Sorry,” he said.

King declined to make a second statement later in the sentencing hearing.

Investigators said King took Cunninghams money and coin collection and drove her 1999 Audi to Malheur County, Ore., after the murder.

King, formerly of Sequim, was spotted on Washington state ferry video surveillance in Cunningham’s vehicle without her in it on Sept. 28, 2014.

The abandoned car was discovered by hunters in a remote area.

A note found in the car said “Mom+Dad+My Sis, I know you will never understand! Hell I don’t even understand! Nothing what I do. I,” according to the certification for probable cause.

The handwriting was consistent with King’s handwriting, Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan wrote in an arrest report.

Clallam County sheriff’s deputies Brian Knutson and Jeffery Waterhouse found King living under a bridge near Juntura, Ore., a town about 80 miles west of the Idaho border, last November.

Employees of a Juntura restaurant told the lawmen that King had been paying for meals with crisp $100 bills and coins.

King was arrested without incident Nov. 13, 2014. He was driven to Clallam County the next day.

King’s dog, a pit bull-German Shepherd mix named Bubba, was offered to members of his family.

Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron has said he does not know what happened to the dog.

“If it wasn’t for the hard work of our sheriff’s department in locating Mr. King out of the state while he fled from what he did, we may not have an ending to this,” Devlin said.

“It speaks volumes about our law enforcement.”

King has past convictions of second-degree theft, second-degree burglary, possession of methamphetamine and taking a motor vehicle without permission, Devlin said.

Based on his offender score, King’s sentencing range for the murder was 13 years, nine months on the low end to 22 years, one month on the high end.

Judges do not have to follow sentencing recommendations made by attorneys.

Cynthia Hargreaves, a friend of Cunningham’s, provided a victim impact statement in which she asked the court to impose the maximum sentence based on the brutality of the crime.

“I want the court and everyone to know that her life mattered,” Hargreaves wrote in the letter, which Devlin read aloud.

“Not only was she a friend but she was also a mother and a grandmother and will be truly missed by all.”

“We miss her every day — the grandkids, the friends, me,” Wilson told King.

“That’s my mom. How would you feel it if was your mom?”

King will be on community supervision for three years after his release.

“Do you think your punishment is fair?” Wilson asked.

“I don’t think you should ever get out.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at [email protected]

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