August 10, 2007 in City

Fugitive builds life, gets break

Thomas Clouse Staff writer
 

A convicted burglar who transformed himself into a successful computer technician avoided prison again Thursday, some 18 years after he fled Spokane to avoid incarceration.

The two stories of Kevin Wayne Odell, 41, played out in court Thursday before about a dozen family members and a judge intent on sending the reformed scofflaw to prison for his previous crime.

In the end, Odell got to keep his $90,000-a-year job in Renton, Wash., three homes and happy marriage.

“I came out here with every intention of sending you to prison,” Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark told Odell. “But because of what you said and what the family said and the issues brought up by your attorneys, you are not going back to prison. I hope you appreciate all those people backing you up.”

Odell’s first life was one of a confused Otis Orchards youth who would rather steal money than earn it, according to a statement Odell read.

“Throughout Kevin’s school years, he continued to lack an awareness of the consequences of his actions,” his stepfather, Ron Odell, said in a separate statement. “This was a very difficult time for both Kevin and the family. This was the period that he started to have trouble with the law.”

Odell picked up three burglary convictions before he was arrested for a Dec. 4, 1988 burglary. He entered a plea on June 20, 1989, but did not show up to his Aug. 17 sentencing.

The warrant seeking his arrest would follow him as he fled to start a new life in California.

Odell found work as a diesel mechanic in Stockton, Calif., but was injured on the job about two years later, Ron Odell said. The state of California then paid to retrain him.

As he fought severe bouts of depression, Odell was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as having bipolar disorder. With medication, Odell’s life took off.

Odell used his successful training as a computer technician and worked in the field for 10 years in the San Francisco area. He was laid off during the industry recession in 2003, and he then took jobs in Wilmington, Del., and at a refinery in Philadelphia.

While he missed out on many jobs because of his felony convictions, he landed other positions in the computer field including a job for the state of New York in Albany. Then in 2006, he took his current position with PACCAR Inc., a company that builds Kenmore and Peterbilt trucks in Renton.

His success and high-paying jobs bought him and his wife a home in California and two homes in a golf community near Dallas, Ron Odell said.

But it was a business trip Odell took earlier this year to Amsterdam when his two worlds collided, resulting from a background check by the Department of Homeland Security.

Government agents arrested Odell on the 18-year-old warrant in February as he arrived at the Seattle airport.

“After I was arrested and put in jail, all I could think about the entire two weeks I was there was how much I am sorry to my family and my wife for committing this crime 18 years ago,” he said. “And I take complete responsibility for my actions.”

“I am pleading with you as a 41-year-old man and a husband who is a completely different person now than I was 18 years ago to please allow me to stay out of jail.”

However, his attorneys, Dennis Cronin and David Hearrean asked Judge Clark to take it a step further. They sought to have the charge dismissed after 18 years of a clean record.

“There is nothing a mom would want more than what Kevin is now,” Hearrean said.

But Clark sided with Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor David Stevens, who argued that Odell would have never taken responsibility for his conviction had he not been arrested.

“We were always ready to sentence him,” Stevens said. “But he absconded. He hid.”

Clark weighed both of Odell’s lives before her decision.

“You certainly have come a long way … as far as establishing yourself and a job and a home and property and all of that. That’s certainly a good thing,” Clark said.

But she said she could not dismiss the case.

“I’ll be saying to every defendant in this county … just ignore the whole court process and go on and do whatever you want to do with your life,” Clark said. “What you did was wrong, and there needs to be some consequence for that.”

Clark sentenced Odell to a year of home confinement, which will allow him to keep his job. He thanked the judge before hugging his family.


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