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Jan. 26, 2023

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Alway gets 70 years in murder at Hockinson property

He beat, fatally shot Raymond Brandon in 2017

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

The primary defendant in the April 2017 beating and fatal shooting of a man at a Hockinson property was sentenced Friday to about 70 years in prison.

A Clark County Superior Court jury found Neil Allen Alway, 43, guilty last month of first- and second-degree murder, and two counts each of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery.

Alway faced a total sentencing range of 67¾ to 82 years in prison, with multiple firearm enhancements and some counts running consecutively. His sentence will also run consecutively with sentences in 2015 and 2017 cases.

According to the prosecution, Alway was out on bail in an assault in Cowlitz County and supposed to be serving a nine-month sentence in Clark County in a 2015 burglary case when he killed 34-year-old Raymond C. Brandon.

Three co-defendants who agreed to testify against Alway at trial — John Michael West, 47, Traci Lynn Mendez, 45, and Ashley Wideman, 27 — were sentenced earlier this week. West and Mendez received about 18 years for second-degree murder, and Wideman received a suspended sentence and credit for time served for unlawful imprisonment and second-degree rendering criminal assistance.

A fourth co-defendant, Ashley Lorraine Barry, 35, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced in 2019 to about 13 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Alway and West were beating Brandon when Alway decided to kill him.

Mendez had conspired with the others to lure Brandon and his girlfriend, Allison Fields, to her residence to settle a debt over a Subaru Forester that Brandon was driving, according to prosecutors.

The couple arrived on the morning of April 20, 2017, and were ambushed by the group. A chaotic confrontation ensued, and Alway and West led Brandon outside, where he was attacked and fatally shot in the chest. Fields was forced to stay with the group or risk being killed herself, court records say.

Afterward, Mendez drove the group and Fields in her SUV to a farm off Northeast 119th Street, and Fields eventually escaped, court records say.

Alway had planned for months to assault and rob Brandon because he owed Alway money for the Subaru, which Brandon and Fields had been living in for a few weeks. They’d been driving it to the Hockinson residence to shower, eat breakfast and, according to the defense, use drugs. Brandon’s body was found a week after he was killed.

Criminal history

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein had asked the judge to sentence Alway to 82 years in prison due, in part, to his lengthy criminal history.

“This was a senseless act of violence over, apparently, a Subaru, that Mr. Brandon lost his life over,” Klein said.

She said Brandon was tied up and led to a shed, where he was beaten for 20 minutes, all while “screaming for help, begging for his life.” Instead, Alway shot him, she said, and left his body there for seven days.

“He did not treat Mr. Brandon as a human being,” Klein said.

Defense attorney Tony Lowe told the court Alway fought in the Iraq War, and he doesn’t know what impact it had on him. Alway got involved with the drug culture after returning home, Lowe said, adding that “all hell broke loose.”

The attorney said Alway went to trial because he did not commit Brandon’s murder; he plans to appeal.

Alway echoed his attorney’s statement.

“First, to Raymond’s family, I truly, from the bottom of my heart, feel sorry for your loss,” he said, later adding, “I did not pull the trigger on Mr. Brandon. He was alive when we left him.”

Brandon’s loved ones told Alway they had no sympathy for him.

Brandon’s aunt, Rita Brandon, said he chose to live his life the wrong way.

“I’ve seen the look in your eyes. You’re the devil,” she said.

Brandon’s sister told Alway he could have stopped with the beating and didn’t have to kill her brother.

“He’s sick. He’s a career criminal, and he’s never going to change,” she said to the court.

Before handing down her decision, Judge Jennifer Snider said whether she gave Alway a high- or low-end sentence was moot, because he will essentially serve a life sentence.