Justin Crenshaw will spend the rest of his life in prison for stabbing to death a young woman and man two and a half years ago in Spokane.
Crenshaw, 22, confessed to the brutal murders of Sarah A. Clark, 18, and Tanner E. Pehl, 20, on Feb. 28, 2008. A jury last week found him guilty of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
This morning, Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced Crenshaw to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The only other possible sentence under state law was the death penalty, and prosecutors decided not to seek that.
Crenshaw became acquainted with the victims shortly after moving to town from Las Vegas to visit his sister, Nikki Vanvlymen. Crenshaw soon began dating Clark, Vanvlymen’s close friend, and decided to stay in Spokane.
Crenshaw, Pehl and Clark were drinking at the home where Pehl lived with his mother and brother at 512 E. Elm Road the night of the murders.
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll told jurors that Crenshaw may have killed Clark because she wasn’t interested in having sex with him. He stabbed her 26 times, then posed her body with a Samurai sword positioned at her nearly severed head.
Pehl went to the bedroom to investigate Clark’s screams and was overpowered by Crenshaw, prosecutors said. Crenshaw stabbed Pehl more than a dozen times, placed a blanket over his body and plunged a broadsword through his abdomen four times before it lodged in his spine.
Investigators believe Crenshaw found the swords while ransacking the Pehl home after the murders.
Jurors ruled that Crenshaw, who has a previous assault conviction for stabbing a friend in the back as a juvenile, committed the murders with deliberate cruelty and that the slayings were part of a common plan or scheme.
Jurors rejected Crenshaw’s claim that a rare alcohol disorder triggered the attacks. His lawyer, Chris Bugbee, had asked jurors to convict Crenshaw of first-degree manslaughter.
Clark was a senior at Mead High School who worked at a grocery store and wanted to be a hairstylist. A black and white painted bench sits at the high school in memory of her and a zebra-striped coat she often wore. Pehl had graduated from Mead and worked as a chef at the now-closed Brooklyn’s Woodfire Grill on North Newport Highway, where he met Crenshaw.