Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Frederick Russell a top priority

The Spokesman-Review

Frederick David Russell has become more of a marked man than he already was.

Now, the U.S. Marshals Service has posted Russell on its “Top 15 Most Wanted” list ( www.usmarshals.gov) for skipping out on an October 2001 trial in which he faced several felony counts in the highway deaths and injuries of a carload of other Washington State University students. By adding the 26-year-old fugitive to its list, the Marshals Service made it harder for him to hide behind sympathizers.

The listing means the marshals will devote more money and manpower to Russell’s apprehension. Also, it signifies that reward money will be available for information leading to Russell’s arrest. A reward could attract the tip that leads authorities to Russell.

By listing Russell, the Marshal’s Service sent an important message to the families of those killed or injured in the awful 2001 Fourth of July accident on the Palouse: It isn’t giving up on this case. Only Russell’s capture and prosecution can provide answers to the survivors and families who are still grieving over their horrible losses. Russell, whether guilty or not of vehicular manslaughter, denied so many closure by running to Canada, with the assistance of a WSU graduate student, three days before his trial was to begin.

Authorities have been looking for him ever since.

Russell has hurt so many with his alleged reckless driving and his effort to avoid trial and to stay out of prison.

First, he is accused of driving recklessly at a high rate of speed and possibly drunk on the night of the four-car accident on State Route 270, between Pullman and Moscow. The accident killed students Brandon S. Clements, Stacy Morrow and Ryan Sorensen.

In the same car, three others were seriously injured, two with permanent disabilities.

Next, graduate student Bernadette Olson sacrificed a career as a criminal justice professor by driving Russell to an airport in Calgary.

She was forced to resign as a teacher at the University of West Florida after pleading guilty in a Spokane federal court of intentionally lying to federal investigators.

Later, she was sentenced to six months in federal prison.

Olson studied under Russell’s father, Gregory, the former supervisor of the WSU criminal justice department who has since taken a job as an Arkansas State University professor.

At this point, Olson is the only one to be penalized for abetting Russell’s escape and life on the lam, although authorities are convinced others did, too.

As authorities pursue Russell, they should be equally diligent about identifying and prosecuting those who helped him get away.

Finally, there are the families of the dead and injured who continue to follow news about this case closely.

Stacy Morrow’s father, Rich, and other relatives of the students attended the March 2004 Spokane hearing in which Olson pleaded guilty “just to be a witness, just to be a face.” Continued Rich Morrow: “I have to do this for my daughter.”

For the sake of the mourning families, the injured, the dead, and justice, the marshals now need to catch this dangerous character.