In a surprise move this afternoon, a Pierce County judge postponed the sentencing of a woman convicted in the fatal robbery of an armored-car guard so law enforcement can mine her for more information about an unsolved homicide.
The loved ones of victim Kurt Husted had had their say and prosecutors had made their sentencing recommendation for Tonie Williams-Irby when Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming suggested a postponement might be in order.
Williams-Irby is providing information to local detectives about an unsolved homicide that might be tied to her former boyfriend, Odies Walker, prosecutors and her defense attorney said Friday.
They declined to provide specifics.
The 43-year-old woman already testified against Walker in his aggravated first-degree murder trial in Husted’s death. A jury convicted Walker, and he’s serving a sentence of life without parole.
Husted, 38, died after being shot in the face while picking up the daily receipts from the Lakewood Walmart on June 2, 2009.
He was a motorcycle enthusiast working toward obtaining his helicopter pilot’s license. The 1988 graduate of Tacoma’s Lincoln High School had worked for Loomis for 16 years.
He and Deborah Bishop planned to be married in October 2010.
Prosecutors contended Williams-Irby, an employee at the store, provided inside information co-defendants Walker, Calvin Finley and Marshawn Turpin used to plan and execute the robbery.
Finley admitted to shooting Husted and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Turpin pleaded guilty to grabbing the money bag once Husted was down. He’s serving a sentence of more than 47 years.
Defense attorney Gary Clower was arguing for Fleming to accept a plea deal that calls for Williams-Irby to receive no more than 15 years in prison – saying his client was continuing to help detectives in other cases – when the judge interrupted him.
Fleming asked if Williams-Irby was willing to waive speedy sentencing and whether there might be “some benefit to the people of the state of Washington” if she did.
Clower said he thought there would be and agreed to delay his client’s sentencing until June 17. Deputy prosecutors Jerry Costello and Dawn Farina did not object.
Farina supported a sentence of no more than 15 years for Williams-Irby, arguing during her recommendation that Williams-Irby had provided invaluable testimony and information that led to the convictions of Finley, Turpin and Walker, who planned the crime and drove the getaway car on the day of the robbery.
Outside court, Costello said the delay was unusual but that prosecutors have an interest in seeing their plea agreements followed by judges because defendants would be less likely to cooperate if not.
Bishop said outside court she could stomach the postponement if Williams-Irby provides information that brings “closure and justice” to another family whose loved one was murdered.
Still, Husted’s relatives and friends were disappointed by the decision.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Bishop said. “We were ready today, and now we have to see her again.”
Bishop and Husted’s mother and sister addressed Fleming before the hearing was delayed.
They all called for Williams-Irby to receive the maximum sentence available under the terms of her plea deal: 18 years, four months.
“Our loss if forever, and God knows our son will never get parole,” said Janet Husted, the victim’s mother.
Kirsten Talley, Husted’s sister, said the plea deal was unjust. Williams-Irby agreed to cooperate only after being arrested and facing an aggravated first-degree murder charge, which could have carried a life sentence.
Williams-Irby did nothing to stop the fatal robbery even though she knew it was going to happen, Talley said.
“Kurt doesn’t get a deal. My family doesn’t get a deal,” she said through tears.
Bishop called Williams-Irby a bad mother for dating a man she knew to be dangerous and doing nothing to stop the murder of Husted.
“Without you, the robbery and murder would not have taken place,” she said.