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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man serving life without parole for 1986 killing of pharmacy clerk to be resentenced

It was 36 years ago when Christopher Blystone kidnapped a Halpin’s Pharmacy clerk with an accomplice, drove him up to Mica Peak and shot him in the back of the head numerous times.

The body of 20-year-old Steven Foster wasn’t found for 10 days.

The killing stemmed from a cocaine-fueled robbery. Foster had left the popular Spokane Valley store June 5, 1986, in a company car to deposit “a rather large sum” in checks, according to a Spokane Daily Chronicle story.

Blystone, who was 18 at the time, is now 52 and remains imprisoned on a life-without-parole sentence. But he could get a chance at freedom, as a judge is set to resentence him Friday.

A Washington State Supreme Court ruling last year required judges to take young age into account when handing down a sentence of life without parole to young adult offenders.

In March 1988, Blystone pleaded guilty to aggravated first-degree murder in exchange for the dismissal of the other charges against him and a recommendation that he be sentenced to life in prison rather than death. Richard L. Ring, then 19, was also convicted as an accomplice to the abduction and killing, and received a 26-year prison sentence.

Judge Michael E. Donohue followed the prosecutor’s recommendation and sentenced Blystone to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Blystone said he spent all $1,200 he stole from Foster on cocaine, according to a Spokesman-Review story at the time.

“I’m not an idiot. If it wasn’t for the drugs and stuff, I wouldn’t be in here,” Blystone said.

Earlier this year, Blystone asked to be resentenced under State v. Monschke, a 2021 ruling that overturned the automatic life-without-parole sentences for young adult offenders who, while legally adults, may not have fully developed brains.

The ruling applies to 18- to 20-year-olds. Blystone was 18 when he killed Foster and 20 when he was sentenced.

The only two options for aggravated first-degree murder in the state were life in prison without parole or the death penalty when Blystone struck his deal in 1988.

While Spokane County Superior Court Judge Harold D. Clarke III will re-evaluate Blystone’s sentence, he can affirm the life in prison without the possibility of parole sentence under the new law.

In his sentencing brief, Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Treppiedi argued that Blystone’s youthfulness was already considered when he was initially sentenced, and therefore Blystone should continue serving his sentence.

Blystone had a difficult childhood and began using drugs in the seventh grade, factors that were considered at the first sentencing, Treppiedi said. Blystone’s age and lack of significant criminal record also warranted leniency, he wrote.

“Mr. Blystone knew that life meant life when he signed his plea agreement,” Treppiedi wrote.

Blystone’s public defender, Kyle Zeller, argued that during his more than 35 years in prison, Blystone has been rehabilitated.

“Mr. Blystone has renounced the chaotic way of life that played such a large role in his choices and actions,” the sentencing brief reads. “He dedicates his life to Steven (Foster), in the only way he knows how, vowing to never hurt another person again …”

Since his arrest, Blystone has continued his education and founded a number of programs in jail to help rehabilitate his fellow inmates. Family, friends and former prison employees wrote more than a dozen letters in support of Blystone, saying he has made a consistent effort to grow as a person.

Blystone’s brother also indicated he would help his brother reintegrate into society if released.

Foster’s family was not represented in letters filed to the court.

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