February 28, 1998 in City

Teen Gets 27-Year Term For Killings Prosecutor’s Request For Leniency Rejected In Fatal Shooting Of Ex-Girlfriend’s Parents

Associated Press
 

A 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to the fatal shootings of his former girlfriend’s adoptive parents was sentenced Friday to more than 27 years in prison.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Robert Zagelow ordered Michael Jansen to serve two consecutive terms of 13 years and eight months for the second-degree murders of Lester Lake, 66, and Velma Lake, 64.

The penalty is at the high end of the state’s standard-range penalty.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence at the low end of the range - 10 years and three months - and promised not to appeal an exceptionally low sentence.

Deputy Prosecutor Joe Golden praised Jansen’s cooperation in the prosecution of his former girlfriend - Starr Lake, 16 - whose first trial on second-degree murder charges ended in a mistrial last month. Her retrial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Jansen’s lawyer, William McCool, argued that Lake had induced Jansen to kill the Lakes, who were both her adoptive parents and her grandparents. He asked that his client be given no more than eight years for each slaying.

But Zagelow rejected the defense arguments.

“To say someone can talk you into killing two other people and you don’t share some blame in that - I just don’t buy it,” he said.

Relatives of the Lakes had urged a harsh sentence.

Jansen was arrested last August on two counts of first-degree murder. The charges were reduced after he agreed to testify against Starr Lake, accused of masterminding the killings. Jansen had been her boyfriend for several weeks at the time of the slayings last July.

Authorities said Jansen shot the sleeping Lakes several times in the bedroom of their home outside Walla Walla.

Prosecutors contend Starr Lake wanted the Lakes dead to escape their control and to get a piece of their estate. The girl denies any part in the shootings and says she was asleep when the killings took place.

Jansen testified at Lake’s first trial that she initiated “Operation Potato Head,” the plot to kill her adoptive parents.

In his bid for leniency for Jansen, McCool filed a memorandum containing information that wasn’t introduced at Starr Lake’s trial. The document says Starr Lake told Jansen she had been raped sometime in the past by a family acquaintance, but that her parents failed to take it seriously.

No one knows if the story is true, McCool acknowledged.

Lake’s first trial was moved to Kennewick because of intense media attention in Walla Walla. Benton County jurors deadlocked 9-3 for acquittal.

The retrial will be in Pomeroy.

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WHAT’S NEXT

Starr Lake, 16, is accused of planning the killings of her adoptive parents. Her first trial on second-degree murder charges ended in a mistrial last month. Her retrial is scheduled to begin Monday.

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