Port Angeles murderer may be free in 2 years

OLYMPIA – A Port Angeles woman serving a prison sentence of more than 23 years for her role in the 1996 murder of her boyfriend’s mother may be set free in two years.

Trina Marie Stern, 23, who has spent nearly eight years behind bars for the first-degree murder of Port Angeles resident Carol Bircher, was recommended for a commuted sentence Friday by the state Clemency and Pardons Board during a public hearing at the state capital.

If Gov. Gary Locke upholds the unanimous vote of the four-member panel, Stern could be released from Washington Corrections Center for Women near Gig Harbor in June 2006 after reaching the 10-year mark of her incarceration.

It was not immediately known when the governor will make a final decision on Stern’s case.

The board’s decision was hailed with hugs and happy tears by Stern’s parents, Chuck and Barbara Stern, who went to Olympia on Friday with a contingent of nearly 40 family members and friends from Port Angeles.

Their plan is to bring Trina Stern back to Port Angeles, where they say she’ll be supported by a far-flung network of family members and friends who will help her find employment, enroll in college and avoid the pitfalls that led to her imprisonment.

‘A long time coming’

“It’s been a long time coming, and been a long time of suffering, but at last we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Chuck Stern said moments after the panel’s recommendation.

“Ten years as opposed to 23 is a big difference. I think we’re getting her out while she still has a chance.”

The Sterns, as well as their supporters, have long maintained that because of her immaturity, susceptibility to bad influences and her substance abuse problems at the time of the slaying, Trina Stern should have been tried as a juvenile rather than an adult.

Had Clallam County juvenile officials chosen that course instead of remanding her case to Clallam County Superior Court, she would have been released by her 21st birthday, they say.

Instead, she received a 23-year, 4-month sentence, and despite a record of good conduct while in prison, could not have been released any earlier than Oct. 7, 2016, at the age of 36.

Her co-conspirator, former boyfriend David Bircher, is currently serving a 28-year sentence at the Monroe Corrections Complex in Snohomish County.

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