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Appeals court upholds vehicular homicide convictions


An appeals court on Tuesday upheld vehicular homicide convictions against Frederick Russell, who killed three Washington State University students and seriously injured 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 was jailed in Ireland as he fought extradition to the U.S. to stand trial. Russell, whose father was the head of WSU’s criminal justice program, had fled to Ireland to avoid prosecution.

Judges Stephen Brown and Dennis Sweeney concurred with Judge Teresa Kulik’s opinion.

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 Guinness beers at a local bar before getting behind the wheel of his Chevy Blazer.

He was convicted 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.

Russell disappeared on Oct. 23, 2001, which was three days before he was scheduled for a pretrial hearing. He led authorities on a global chase that landed him on the U.S. Marshals Service’s “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 boutique. An undercover Irish detective had been providing surveillance of Russell, who was arrested four years to the day after he fled the country.

Russell’s father, Gregory D. Russell, paid his son’s $5,000 bond but denied helping his son flee the country.

Bernadette Olson, who was a graduate student at the time of the crash and a Russell family friend, received a six-month jail term in 2004 for lying to federal prosecutors after she drove Fred Russell to Canada to escape the vehicular homicide charges.

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