Appellate judges today upheld the vehicular homicide convictions against Frederick Russell, who was convicted in 2007 of killing three Washington State University students and seriously injuring three others in a drunken crash a decade ago on the highway that connects Moscow and Pullman.
However, the Division III Court of Appeals will return the case to Superior Court Judge David Frazier so that Russell can be given credit for the time he served incarcerated in Ireland as attorneys fought for his extradition back to the U.S. to stand trial. Russell had fled the country through Canada to avoid prosecution of the case.
“In conclusion, we affirm the convictions for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault and the sentences except we remand to the trial court for the limited purpose of awarding credit for total confinement time served in Ireland,” Judge Teresa Kulik wrote in her opinion that was concurred by judges Stephen Brown and Dennis Sweeney.
Russell was legally drunk at the time of the 2001 crash; he’d bought a 1.5 liter bottle of vodka, drank it at a house party that night and then had about two Guinnesses at a local bar before getting behind the wheel of his Chevy Blazer.
He was declared guilty on Nov. 6, 2007, by a Cowlitz County jury on three vehicular homicide charges for the deaths of WSU students Stacy Morrow, 21, of Milton, Wash; Ryan Sorensen, 21, of Westport, Wash; and Brandon Clements, 22, of Wapato, Wash.
Russell was also found guilty of vehicular assault for injuring three other students: John “Matt” Wagner, of Spokane; Kara Eichelsdoerfer, of Central Park, Wash; and Sameer Ranade, of Kennewick.
Judge Frazier sentenced Russell to 14 years in prison, but refused to give him credit for the year he spent in jail awaiting extradition.
“We conclude the court erred by denying Mr. Russell credit for time served in Ireland,” Kulik wrote.
Before the trial, Russell disappeared on Oct. 23, 2001, which was three days before he was scheduled to appear for a pre-trial hearing. He then led authorities on a global chase that landed him on the U.S. Marshals Service’s “Top 15 Most Wanted List” before the agency received a tip in January, 2005, that Russell was in Dublin, Ireland.
Russell, who had been using the alias “David Carroll,” had been working as a security guard at a lady’s boutique. An undercover Irish detective had been providing surveillance of Russell and he was arrested four years to the day after he fled the country.