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30 years later, woman sentenced for contract killing

SEATTLE – Three decades after a south Seattle auto mechanic was shot to death in a contract killing, prostitute-turned-hit-woman Karen L. Martin was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Because the killing of Leroy Grant was committed before the 1981 Sentencing Reform Act, Judge Sharon Armstrong could go above the standard range, which has a maximum of 18 years.

“You took a man who had children 11 to 17. … You knew he was vulnerable,” Armstrong told Martin on Friday. “You shot him in the back of the neck, and when he was on the ground you shot him two more times.”

Grant’s three children were orphaned by the killing six months after their mother died from an aneurysm.

Martin was married to a prison inmate at the time, who told her that a “contract” had been put out on Grant and that she would be paid $10,000 to kill him, according to court documents. Martin allegedly agreed, met with Grant under the guise of hiring him to restore her Corvette, and shot him in rural King County.

Although Martin confessed to federal investigators and an assistant U.S. attorney about a year after the crime, she wasn’t charged until December 2006, according to court documents. An assistant U.S. attorney, J. Ronald Sim, now a criminal-defense attorney, had offered Martin immunity in exchange for information about organized crime, but the immunity deal was never made official and Sim never told local authorities about her confession.

It wasn’t until a cold-case task force revisited the case decades later that local authorities pieced together the details and charged Martin.

Martin, now 52, sold vacation time-shares and recreational vehicles before her arrest.

At the time of the shooting, she was under the influence of her manipulative and predatory husband, her defense attorneys said.

But Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Baird said she didn’t confess until her husband was going to implicate her in the slaying.

Grant’s killing was one of five in the 1970s and 1980s reopened by the King County Sheriff’s Office, Seattle police and the FBI in 2005 as part of an investigation of Seattle strip-club magnate Frank Colacurcio Sr.