WALLA WALLA - The suspect in September's slaying of an 18-year-old woman in the vicinity of the former Blue Mountain Mall faces more than 10 years behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Angela D. Effinger, 30, entered the guilty pleaThursday afternoon in Superior Court to the charge that includes a finding she intended to kill Audrey Brewer when she stabbed her during a fight about 1:15 a.m. Sept. 6 in the Sears parking lot.
The knife wound Brewer suffered pierced the aorta just above her heart and she was pronounced dead at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.
Although Effinger pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with the prosecution to reduce her case from first-degree murder, she didn't admit she committed the crime as charged.
Her attorney, Jim Barrett, read in court her written statement: "I do not believe I am guilty of this offense in that in no way did I intend to cause the death of Audrey Brewer, but I understand that my actions did so, and therefore, in order to take advantage of the prosecutor's offer, I plead guilty."
The standard-range penalty for second-degree murder is 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months. Sentencing will be held later after completion of a presentence investigation.
In the agreement, Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle is recommending Effinger be ordered to serve the low end of the range and he won't object to the defense asking for a lower-than-standard-range sentence. Judge John Lohrmann isn't bound by any recommendation or request.
First-degree murder includes an allegation that a killing not only was intentional, but premeditated.
Nagle explained in an interview he agreed to reduce the charge to second-degree because even though Effinger armed herself with a knife, proving premeditation could have been difficult had the case gone to trial.
"Just because she intended to stab the victim doesn't mean that we would be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that she had premeditated intent to kill the victim," Nagle said.
He added that Effinger's guilty plea precludes any defenses she could have raised at a trial, including alcohol-induced diminished capacity and issues such as who started the altercation.
Read more details in Friday's Union-Bulletin and here online.