Ex-Sequim man scheduled to be executed Dec. 3

WALLA WALLA — Former Sequim resident Darold Ray Stenson is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 3 by the state Department of Corrections at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

It would be the state’s first execution since 2001.

Stenson, 55, was convicted on two counts of first degree aggravated murder in 1994 in the shooting deaths of his 28-year-old wife, Denise, and business partner Frank Hoerner, 33, at his bird farm southwest of Sequim. The crimes occurred on March 25, 1993.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a mandate Oct. 31, which terminates the federal court’s stay of execution.

But Stenson isn’t giving up.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly said Thursday that Stenson has:

• Filed a fourth personal restraint petition with the state Supreme Court.

• Filed an action in Thurston County Superior Court saying that the method of setting the date for execution is wrong, and that the case should be brought back to Clallam County.

• Motions pending in Clallam County Superior Court requesting DNA testing.

“He has multiple actions going on where he is still fighting it,” Kelly said.

Kelly declined to speculate on whether or not the execution will go through on Dec. 3.

“I don’t try to predict court rulings,” she said.

One potential barrier to Stenson’s execution was removed in April when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that lethal injection is not cruel and unusual punishment in a Kentucky case.

The last Washington state inmate to be executed was James Elledge in 2001.

Including Stenson, there are eight men on the death row in Washington.

There have been 77 executions in the state since 1904.

Long court battle

Stenson was found guilty by a Clallam County Superior Court jury and sentenced to death in 1994.

Prosecutors presented motive and physical evidence linking Stenson to the crimes.

Lawyers argued that Stenson killed his wife for insurance money and murdered Hoerner in an attempt to frame him.

Stenson appealed, arguing that Hoerner shot Denise Stenson, then killed himself.

The state Supreme Court rejected the appeal in July 1997.

In March 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal against the death sentence in the Stenson case, which went back to the state Supreme Court in September 1999.

When the Green River Killer received a life sentence as part of a plea bargain for the murders of 48 women, Stenson’s lawyers filed a personal restraint petition in the state Supreme Court.

They asked the court to reconsider the death sentence in January 2004. Other death row inmates appealed on similar grounds.

In November 2004, the state Supreme Court rejected another Stenson appeal on the grounds that it didn’t present new evidence, and raised issues that the court thought should have been brought up in earlier appeals.

Stenson’s lawyers questioned the constitutionality of the conviction, and the case went before U.S. District Court in 2005 before it reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

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