Matthew DeVore pled guilty to second degree murder and a
sentencing aggravator that the killing caused a destructive
and foreseeable impact on persons other than the victim. The
trial court, in findings of fact, found the killing to cause
a noticeable impact on others, particularly on Brenda Losey,
the girlfriend of the victim decedent. Despite pleading
guilty to these facts, DeVore, on appeal, argues that the
aggravator cannot form the basis for an exceptional sentence
under his circumstances, that the aggravator is
unconstitutionally vague, and that his exceptional sentence
is excessive. We disagree and affirm his sentence.
prosecution arises from the killing of Thomas Christian by
Matthew DeVore in the presence of Brenda Losey. Losey was the
estranged wife of DeVore and the girlfriend of Christian.
November 24, 2014, Thomas Christian and Brenda Losey sat
together holding hands in a Kennewick plasma donation center
lobby, while waiting to donate blood. The two high school
sweethearts had recently rekindled a romantic relationship.
Matthew DeVore, the separated husband of Losey, entered the
lobby, ambled toward Christian, removed a knife from his
clothes, and stabbed Christian deep in the stomach.
Devore claims he entered the center to donate blood and
without any intent to see or attack Thomas Christian. Devore
asserts that his seeing Christian with his wife inflamed his
anger and he removed a knife he always carried because of
DeVore's quick attack disabled Thomas Christian from
reacting. Brenda Losey frantically attempted to protect
Christian from the stabbing by stepping in front of Christian
and shoving DeVore. DeVore pushed Losey and Losey, while
risking her own life, attempted again to shield Christian
from another stab. DeVore ran from the building. At least two
other people in the lobby witnessed the stabbing.
Thomas Christian bled to death in a blood center, Losey
sought to stem the bleeding. She called to Christian:
"Don't-you can't leave me. Don't you dare
leave me." Report of Proceedings (RP) (Sept. 9, 2016) at
34. Coincidentally the plasma center video recorded the
stabbing and death of Thomas Christian.
November 26, 2014, the State of Washington charged Matthew
DeVore with second degree murder in that DeVore, with intent
to kill Thomas Christian, but without premeditation, stabbed
and killed Christian. The information also charged DeVore,
pursuant to RCW 9.94A.535(3)(r), with committing the murder
under the aggravating circumstances of causing a destructive
and foreseeable impact on persons other than Christian.
prosecution carries a long procedural history that we relate
because of some relevance to our decision. On December 4,
2014, the trial court held an arraignment for Matthew DeVore.
Before the arraignment, DeVore signed a plea of guilty. The
plea statement declared, in part:
On the date charged in Benton County, Washington, I saw
Thomas Christian, the man that was living with and dating my
wife, at a business in Kennewick. I went to the business
early in an attempt to avoid seeing Mr. Christian. When I
unexpectedly saw Mr. Christian, I became overcome with
emotion and stabbed Mr. Christian once. As a result of my
stabbing Mr. Christian, Mr. Christian died. . . .
Papers (CP) at 12. At the beginning of the arraignment,
defense counsel stated that DeVore wished to enter a guilty
plea, and counsel handed to the court Devore's statement
on plea of guilty. The State then moved to file an amended
information charging DeVore with first degree murder with an
aggravating circumstance of impact on others. Second degree
murder is a Class A felony that may carry a life imprisonment
sentence. RCW 9A.32.050; RCW 9A.20.021(a). One convicted of
murder in the first degree must be sentenced to life
imprisonment. RCW 9A.32.040. The State and DeVore disputed
whether DeVore had entered a valid guilty plea and whether
the State could amend the information. The trial court
continued the arraignment so the parties could brief the
December 22, 2014, the trial court convened and announced
that the State may not amend its information if amending the
information prejudiced Matthew DeVore's substantial
rights. The trial court found that postponing the arraignment
to obtain legal authority on the question of whether the
State could amend the information prejudiced DeVore's
substantial right to plead guilty at the time of arraignment.
The trial court denied the State's motion to amend the
information and granted DeVore an opportunity to plead guilty
to second degree murder. The trial court conducted a plea
colloquy to determine whether DeVore's plea was knowing,
intelligent, and voluntary. The court asked DeVore to
supplement, in his own words, the factual basis for the plea.
DeVore described the killing:
[Mr. DeVore]: Yes, sir. I never, I never intended to-for what
happened happen. I was under a lot of duress for some number
of months and I tried to avoid Mr. Christianson [sic].
And on the day that-on the 24th, when I went there [the
plasma donation center], I was trying to get there early to
avoid him. And I did not intend to meet him in any way, but
rather to avoid him.
And I was under a lot of, a lot of emotional duress, missing
my children. And unfortunately I tried to confront him to
talk to him about it. And, and I don't know what
happened, sir, but-just our conversation was an ongoing
conversation between us that always seemed to go wrong.
And I just-at that moment, I-something came over me. It was
like getting hit by a lightning bolt.
And after it happened, I didn't even really recognize
what had happened until later. I was in shock, I think, for
an entire week. . . .
. . . .
. . . And that moment when I was standing there, I tried to
talk to him and tell him-I was basically trying to tell him
that I wanted to see my kids, but unfortunately it came out
wrong and I was angry.
And when we started talking, and I felt like he was treating
me like a dog and told-just bushed [sic] me off and kind of
motioned a kick at me and-I don't believe for any intent
but other than just to belittle me. And that was kind of an
ongoing thing. And I just, I snapped and I drew my, I drew a
knife and, and I stabbed him. I attempted to kill him.
THE COURT: Pardon me?
[Mr. DeVore]: In a-an attempt to kill him. That is not true.
THE COURT: Anything else you'd like to say, sir-
[Mr. DeVore]: No, sir.
RP (Dec. 22, 2014) at 23-24.
the December 22 hearing and after Matthew DeVore's
statement to the trial court, the State renewed its objection
to the acceptance of the guilty plea. The State argued that
DeVore's comments failed to present sufficient facts to
support a charge of second degree murder, since, after
stating otherwise, he denied any intent to kill. The State
argued that the court possessed discretion in the interests
of justice to reject DeVore's plea.
the December 22, 2014 hearing, the trial court found that
Matthew DeVore pled guilty knowingly, intelligently, and
voluntarily, and also declared that DeVore stated an adequate
factual basis for his plea to second degree murder. The
court, however, questioned whether the entry of DeVore's
plea served the interests of justice. Defense counsel and the