Kevin Wayne Newland, convicted by a jury of first-degree murder for killing 19-year-old Jamie Lynn Drake last year, could spend most of his life in prison following sentencing Friday by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza.
In a courtroom packed with more than 50 friends and relatives of Drake, an aspiring model who had just graduated from high school when she was killed, Cozza ordered her 21-year-old killer to spend more than 45 years in prison – the maximum allowable sentence.
The jury verdict included first-degree felony murder, first-degree possession of stolen property, forgery and theft. The jury did not return a verdict of premeditated murder, and that count was dropped at Friday’s sentencing.
Newland, who had dated Drake’s roommate Jordan Sheffield, surprised Drake in her apartment in June 2006, where she was alone. He struck her, covered her head with plastic bags and stuffed her body in a crawl space in his mother’s cabin in Stevens County. Newland stole Drake’s prized silver Mustang and went on a spending spree with her credit cards, according to testimony in the trial last month.
“I can’t look into your heart; I don’t have that power,” said Cozza, addressing Newland, a slight man who stared straight ahead and displayed no emotion during the hearing. Newland’s crime was “a stupid, stupid thing to do,” the judge said.
“I don’t know if you have remorse or not; you dumped her body like a sack of garbage,” Cozza added.
Newland declined to speak when invited to address the judge.
Susan Nichols, Drake’s mother, spoke during the hearing along with several family friends, who urged a maximum sentence for Newland. Annette Ingham, the victim witness coordinator for the Spokane County prosecutor’s office, passed out boxes of tissues to the emotional crowd.
“The last 16 months have been the most difficult in my life,” Nichols said. “Her life was just beginning when she was taken from us. … I want Kevin to serve the maximum time.”
A group of Drake’s high school friends cried as a letter signed by 10 of them was read aloud. It described Drake’s beauty, warmth and zest for life, and it also addressed the continuing depression faced by Sheffield, Drake’s former roommate, who was not at the hearing.
“She misses Jamie everyday and carries the biggest guilt of all on her shoulders; she really thinks this was all her fault. … She is very depressed,” the letter said.
Sue Weinhandl, Sheffield’s mother, said her daughter and Drake “were best friends since age 9.” Weinhandl brought a cluster of pink balloons to the hallway outside Cozza’s courtroom, inscribed with messages from her friends. The balloons were released outside the courthouse after the sentencing.
Assistant Public Defender Al Rossi read a letter asking for mercy for Newland submitted by Doreen Hogan, of Addy, Wash. Newland was a sweet boy who was a close friend of her son in elementary school and spent a lot of time at her home because his father was single and working, she said in her letter to Cozza.
Drake’s immediate family said they were pleased with Cozza’s tough sentence.
“I think Jamie got her justice today,” Nichols said. As for Newland, Nichols added, “I feel bad for the choices made, and I pray for him and his family.”