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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
March 5, 2024

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Arsonist gets life term under three-strikes law

The Columbian

Vancouver arsonist Roy Wayne Russell was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without possibility of parole under the state’s three-strikes law.

Russell, 37, was convicted earlier this month of a 1997 arson that destroyed his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

Prosecutors said he set the $50,000 blaze after he confronted the woman at a local tavern and was ejected by bouncers.

Russell had two other serious, violent criminal convictions in his past: a 1979 robbery and 1982 kidnapping, both in Arizona.

He is the fourth Clark County defendant to be sentenced to life under the 1993 law.

Russell’s attorney, George Kolin of Washougal, argued that the circumstances of the Arizona robbery were unclear and thus should not count as a strike.

Russell himself asked the judge for a new trial citing weaknesses in the prosecution’s arson case and trial rules which he said hobbled his defense.

Judge Edwin Poyfair turned Russell down on both arguments.

“I have a difficult time saying life in prison without possibility of parole,” he told the defendant. “But the law’s been passed. It’s an absolute.”