Following a tearful apology, a Spokane teenager was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for the 1994 abduction and murder of a young woman attending a downtown Christian conference.
“I’m sorry for this - for everyone,” said 18-year-old Jerry Boot, speaking between sobs.
Boot accepted a plea bargain that ended a two-year ordeal for himself, his family and the victim’s relatives. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and first-degree vehicle theft.
He was 16 in December 1994 when he and his cousin, Kevin Boot, then 17, abducted Felicia Reese as she was leaving a Spokane hotel.
They forced the 22-year-old woman into her car at gunpoint, stole less than $50 from her purse and shot her in the head. Then they dumped her body near Upriver Drive.
Kevin Boot - who prosecutors say killed Reese with a handgun - was convicted of aggravated murder last year and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Charged as an accomplice to the murder, Jerry Boot faced the same punishment. His trial was scheduled to start May 5.
That’s why Boot decided to accept the 35-year prison term offered by prosecutors, defense attorney John Rodgers said.
“We could have gone to trial, and the best I think we’d have done is a conviction for felony murder with a sentence of around 25 years,” Rodgers said.
Boot will be eligible for parole in 29 years, when he is 47 years old.
After the sentencing hearing, the victim’s tearful mother clasped a locket with Reese’s picture in it and struggled to explain her feelings.
“It may be a closure, or they say so. But it doesn’t feel that way for me,” Maggie Bucher said. “I wear this (locket) to remind me that Felicia wouldn’t want me to stay hurt.”
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said the plea bargain provides harsh punishment while sparing the victim’s relatives another gut-wrenching murder trial.
Boot recently told his attorney he’d be willing to plead guilty in exchange for a 25-year sentence. Prosecutors refused, insisting then on a minimum 40-year term.
Both sides agreed last week to a 35-year term, but Driscoll wouldn’t take the deal to court until Reese’s family members agreed.
On Wednesday, Jerry Boot’s father decried the severity of the sentence.
“I could understand 35 years if he had a violent background, but he didn’t,” Jerry D. Boot said. “As they said, he had no criminal record at all.”
He insisted that his son cooperated with detectives from the start, and told them the truth about pleading with Kevin Boot to not kill Reese.
“He told them the truth, and they knew Jerry wasn’t the shooter.”
He said he talked with his son in jail before the sentencing.
“I want him to take whatever advantage he can of the time he has to spend (in prison). “I hope he learns all he can, and does something with the rest of his life.”
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