OLYMPIA – Washington state’s clemency board on Friday recommended a shortened sentence for a woman who is serving a 22-year sentence for her role in a deadly group attack on a 64-year-old man that occurred when she was 14.
After a two-hour hearing that was packed with family members and supporters of Marriam Oliver, the state’s Clemency and Pardons Board unanimously voted that Oliver, now 26, should be released in three years, as long as she doesn’t have any infractions on her prison record during that time. The recommendation now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will get the final say.
Oliver was one of five teens and an adult, Barbara Marie Opel, then 38, who pleaded guilty or were convicted in the 2001 beating and stabbing death of Jerry Dean Heimann at his Everett home. Oliver, who was tried as an adult, received the lower end of the sentencing range for first-degree murder.
Oliver, who testified before the four-member board by telephone, cried and had to pause frequently as she recounted the crime.
“It is something that I will live for the rest of my life, that I took the life of a man, a father, a grandfather and friend,” she said.
“Today, I have a deeper understanding of not just my life, but human life,” she said.
Prosecutors said Opel was hired by Heimann as a caregiver to his elderly mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Opel recruited her own 13-year-old daughter and other teens to kill him so she could get control of his bank account.
In a written statement submitted to the board, Snohomish County prosecutor Mark Roe called Oliver a “willing participant in a murder for hire.”
He said the remaining 10 years Oliver currently has to serve “is not an excessive sentence for such a brutal crime” and wrote that a reduction of her sentence was not warranted.
Oliver’s attorney, Jennifer Stutzer, hugged Oliver’s sister and others after the board made its recommendation, contingent on her having no more infractions between now and her release.
“She has earned this,” Stutzer said.
Barbara Opel was sentenced in 2003 to life in prison without parole. Her daughter, Heather, is serving a 22-year sentence. Heather Opel’s boyfriend, Jeff Grote, was 17 at the time of the crime and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Heimann’s death. He is serving a 50-year sentence. Kyle Boston, 14 at the time of the slaying, was sentenced to 18 years behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Boston’s cousin from Marysville, then 13, was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in juvenile court in 2001 and has since been released.