Michael J. Pierce given 117-year sentence for Yarrs’ double murder

Michael J. Pierce

Michael J. Pierce

PORT ORCHARD — After four trials and two convictions, Michael J. Pierce is headed back to prison, sentenced to 117 years for the 2009 murders of Pat and Janice Yarr of Quilcene.

Judge Sally Olsen of Kitsap County Superior Court on Friday sentenced Pierce, 39, to 117 years in prison for killing the Yarrs and then setting their home on fire, as well as other charges.

Port Townsend attorney Richard Davies, who had urged a sentence of 59 to 88 years, said the conviction will be appealed within the 30-day limit required for such an action.

The appeal will be handled by the Washington State Office of Public Defense, he said.

Pierce “did not commit the murders but knows who did,” Davies said during the fourth trial, conducted in Port Orchard, which ended Nov. 12.

“Part of our defense is that Michael was not the principal in the murders,” Davies said, adding that he had “no comment” when asked why Pierce did not identify the person.

Pierce was moved from the Kitsap County jail to the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton on Friday evening, according to Scott Rosekrans, Jefferson County prosecuting attorney, who has tried Pierce through four trials.

The Yarrs, described as “icons” in the timber industry at their memorial service, which drew 700 people, were known throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.

The courtroom Friday was packed with family and friends, as well as deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, several jurors and representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Rosekrans said.

Pierce was first tried and convicted for the crimes in 2010 and received a slightly longer sentence of 117 years and 11 months from the late Craddock Verser, who was Jefferson County Superior Court judge.

“Judge Olsen did things a bit differently than Judge Verser,” Rosekrans said.

“She allowed some of the sentences to be served concurrently but gave him the maximum on the arson charges,” he added.

“She felt that it was bad enough to kill these people but especially egregious to set them on fire afterwards.”

In August 2012, as Pierce was serving time in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, his 2010 conviction was overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The court ruled that Pierce’s constitutional rights were denied after his arrest and that Rosekrans’ closing arguments represented prosecutorial misconduct, a finding Rosekrans has disputed.

Two subsequent retrials ended in mistrials.

In the first, which was in Jefferson County, a juror said she might have seen Pierce the night of the murders, thereby becoming a potential witness, while the second, which was relocated to Kitsap County, was ruled a mistrial after jailers did not give Pierce his prescribed medication.

At the fourth trial, Pierce was convicted of all counts: two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree theft, one count of first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree theft and two firearms violations.

For the two counts of murder in the first degree, felony murder, he received a combined 988 months in prison, which included a mandatory 120 months for using a firearm.

Olsen merged the first-degree robbery count into the murder counts to create the felony murder charges, Rosekrans said.

Pierce received an exceptional sentence of 254 months for first-degree arson because of his 14 previous felony convictions prior to the murder charges.

“The defendant has committed multiple current offenses and the defendant’s high offender score results in some of the current offenses going unpunished,” the conviction statement read.

He was given 116 months for first-degree burglary, 254 months for theft of a firearm, 60 months for unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree and 29 months for first-degree theft.

The murder, theft, arson and firearm charges run consecutively, while the burglary and theft charges run concurrently, adding up to 1,404 months, or 117 years.

Pierce, who was originally incarcerated in April 2010, will receive credit for time served. That qualifies him for release in 2127.

Jefferson County incarceration costs are more than $70,000 at a rate of $106.47 per day.

Prior to the fourth trial, the county had spent more than $263,000 on the case, paying for both the prosecution and defense as Pierce qualified for a public defender.

Rosekrans was elected prosecuting attorney in 2010, declaring his candidacy after the completion of the original conviction.

He was defeated for a second term in November and was in the middle of the trial on Election Day.

“On a personal note, it was gratifying to be able to reconvict Pierce, restore the verdict from the original jury and be there for sentencing before leaving office at the end of the year,” Rosekrans said.

________

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at [email protected] or 360-385-2335.

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