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Lewiston man pleads guilty in deaths of ex-wife, daughter

Richard Carlin enters Nez Perce County 2nd District Court on Tuesday at Lewiston, where he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. (Barry Kough / Lewiston Tribune)
Richard Carlin enters Nez Perce County 2nd District Court on Tuesday at Lewiston, where he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. (Barry Kough / Lewiston Tribune)

LEWISTON – The family of Richard A. Carlin’s victims took little comfort in his guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder Tuesday, lamenting that they had done nothing but give the 73-year-old Lewiston man second chances.

“I think he should have died,” said Linda Gonzalez, whose sister, Raetta Carlin, was stabbed and beaten to death last November by Richard Carlin, her ex-husband.

Carlin also beat and stabbed his daughter, Michelle Carlin, to death and stabbed his grandson, Jonathon Spaeth, who survived.

“He took out my whole family,” Gonzalez’ brother, William Smith, said through tears Tuesday following a change of plea hearing, where Carlin admitted to the violent crimes.

Gathered in a tight knot outside the Nez Perce County Courthouse’s felony courtroom, the family talked about how they felt betrayed by Carlin, who they set up in Lewiston after his release from nine years in prison for molesting a 12-year-old child and holding a knife to her throat.

Gonzalez said the family decided to give him another chance so they could remain close their sister, niece and great-nephew.

“We treated him very nice,” she said, adding that the stress of the case has adversely affected her health.

They said they still don’t know why he attacked his own family members.

Carlin appeared weathered and tired, and he had a hard time hearing 2nd District Judge Jeff Brudie during the hearing, when he entered guilty pleas to all three charges as part of a mediated settlement that recommends he serve 19 years to life in prison for the murders, and a fixed 19-year sentence for the attempted murder.

The judge repeated himself until he was satisfied that Carlin understood his guilty pleas and their implications. Carlin donned thick glasses to read the charges from court documents, ultimately telling Brudie why he was admitting to the violent crimes.

“Because I’m guilty,” he said.

Family members of the victims agreed to the terms of the settlement, according to Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman.

Brudie set a status conference for Aug. 3, when he will decide whether to order a pre-sentence investigation. Carlin waived his right to a new investigation, choosing to rely on the one completed in 2003 after his molestation conviction. The judge also set a tentative sentencing date of Aug. 13, when he will decide whether to accept the settlement agreement and impose the recommended sentence.

Court documents outlined the gruesome circumstances of the Nov. 21 crimes. Richard Carlin spent the night at Raetta Carlin’s home in Lewiston’s Circle Drive Mobile Home Park the night before the attacks, which happened there and at Michelle Carlin’s adjacent trailer home.

Spaeth told police his grandfather initially asked for help taking Raetta Carlin to the hospital because she was sick. But Spaeth found his mother, Michelle Carlin, dead and naked on Raetta Carlin’s floor. Richard Carlin then attacked Spaeth, who was 20 at the time, stabbing him in the back with a steak knife.

Spaeth was able to fend off the attack, and then discovered Raetta Carlin’s nude body in a bedroom, covered with a sheet. Richard Carlin attacked Spaeth again, but the young man disarmed his grandfather and called police.

Carlin stole his ex-wife’s Toyota and briefly fled to Oregon, where a tip led to his arrest outside a gas station. He initially fought extradition, but eventually returned voluntarily to Lewiston.


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