Rachelle Waterman was sentenced in Craig Superior Court on Friday to three years for criminally negligent homicide in the death of her mother, 48-year-old Lauri Waterman, whose body was found in the small Southeast town on Prince of Wales Island in 2004.
Presiding Superior Court Judge William Carey, from Ketchikan, listened to victim statements and final arguments before reaching a decision.
Defense Attorney Stephen Wells said they would appeal the sentence. He also said that the lack of criminal history and the conviction make Waterman a perfect candidate for ankle bracelet monitoring. Wells stated that time already served was appropriate for the conviction Waterman received in a retrial decision in February of 2011.
State prosecuting attorney Steve West had asked for a flat time of five years to serve for the murder.
“It is clearly a serious crime,” West said. “Her mother was brutally murdered. It occurred over a three-month period. It wasn’t a spontaneous, one-time incident or situation.”
Waterman had previously been in jail 473 days leading up through her first trial in 2006 that resulted in a hung jury.
Two former boyfriends, Jason Arrant, of Klawock, and Brian Radel, of Thorne Bay, both 24 at the time, confessed to the murder and testified against Waterman. Radel agreed to a sentence up to the maximum 99 years for first-degree murder, Arrant agreed to plead guilty with a cap of 50 years.
In retrial, Waterman had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, kidnapping, burglary in the first degree, attempted murder in the first degree, and criminally negligent homicide.
“I disagree with the state fundamentally, factually that Miss Waterman kept going about this for several months,” Wells said. “Instead, judge, this is what I think, and this was Mr. Radel’s opinion… we are here because Jason Arrant wanted Rachelle Waterman and he viewed Lauri Waterman as the obstacle.”
Rachelle Waterman apologized through tears to the court, the community of Craig and her family.
“I never thought anything like this could happen,” Rachelle Waterman said. “I never thought my teenage difficulties with my mother would result in such tragedy. I never wanted my mother dead, but I know regardless of my intent, my wishes, if I hadn’t associated with those men we wouldn’t be here today. If I hadn’t shared those things about my mom we wouldn’t be here today. And if I hadn’t said those things to Jason Arrant we wouldn’t be here today. I am going to have to live with that. Even though I didn’t want this, even though I didn’t think they would ever do it, and even though I told them no, this is my fault.”
Lauri Waterman’s sister, brother, and sister-in-law listened to the proceedings telephonically.
Doc Waterman told the court that his daughter was guilty only of bad boyfriend choices, had suffered enough and has to live with the death of her mother for the rest of her life.
“I have seen Rachelle Waterman express extreme remorse for her choice of boyfriends, for telling exaggerated stories of abuse by her mother, and for failing to recognize that Jason Arrant was prepared to act upon his fantasies of removing her mother from her life so he could have unfettered access to Rachelle,” Doc Waterman read from a prepared statement. “There were points she was wishing harm upon herself for having been so naïve as to fail (to see) that real harm could come to her mother. The loss of Lauri Waterman was a blow to the Prince of Wales Island community. It is unfortunate that the investigators in the case immediately began to release suspicions and misinformation to the news media, the result of this was that many people in the community that loved and respected Lauri Waterman took the information presented, accepted it as fact, and condemned Rachelle without knowing the truth or falsity of the allegations.”
Doc Waterman stated his daughter had spent 15 months in jail and the terms of her probation are nearly like conditions of parole.
“The only crime she is guilty of is failing to recognize that her boyfriend would actually commit murder,” Doc Waterman said. “I believe that she has already served a sentence greater than her crime warrants. I believe it is only fair to allow her to get on with her life.”
Waterman also said his daughter was barely into her junior year of high school when the crime occurred, has lost most of her friends and support of the island community, and has had threats made against her safety. He said that she completed her GED and successfully completed college courses while in Lemon Creek Correctional Center and when out enrolled in a junior college and took two jobs.
Judge Carey stated that this was the end, hopefully, of a long road for the Waterman family, the people off this island community, for the attorneys that have been involved in the case.
“It has been a difficult road for everyone,” Carey said. “It’s an emotional case, it’s a tough case. It presents some unique questions of law, some unique questions of fact, and we are here today to sentence Miss Waterman, who is now 22 years old, for something that happened when she was 16, under some terrible and unusual circumstances.”
Carey stated that the word horrific barely evenly described the kind of case and circumstances in which this case arose and praised the Anchorage jury that spent more than a month involved in the trial.
“Their ultimate verdict in this case was that Miss Waterman did not intend the death of her mother,” Carey said. “That is reflected in the fact that she was acquitted on all the charges with the exception of the final count, criminally negligent homicide. It meant that Miss Waterman was negligent, not that she intended this crime, but that it was reasonably foreseeable that her acts would cause this crime.”
Waterman has no priors, but an aggravator was found that the crime was one of domestic violence, as it involved a member of the household. Wells had argued for a mitigator of Waterman being a juvenile at the time of the murder.
Carey stated that, although just 16-years-old at the time, Waterman should have known that voicing her troublesome home life and wishes associated with her mother with Arrant and Radel would result in their actions. Carey said he had trouble controlling his language when he thinks about Radel and Arrant.
Carey said he sat next to Radel during his chilling testimony when Radel described the night of the murder in detail.
“He is a sociopath,” Carey said. “He’s a murderer. He deserves every second of the 99 years he received.”
Carey said he agreed with Wells to a great degree on Arrant, calling him the connection between Waterman and Radel.
“It was Mr. Arrant who largely sought the result which was finally achieved,” Carey said. “He is a pathetic dolt. He had an obsession with Miss Waterman. He spent way to much time alone playing with his computer dealing in a fantasy world that was all his own.”
Continued Carey, “The problem is that I believe Ms. Waterman understood that and knew that. Miss Waterman as a student here in Craig and since this event has proven herself to be a highly intelligent young lady and motivated person. But for this three or four month period in her life that resulted and was the cause of the death of her mother. She has more intelligence in her little finger than Jason Arrant does, I have no doubt about that.”
Carey said the defendant’s intelligence was the problem, as she was a manipulator to some degree and knew that there was a distinct possibility something would happen to her mother.
Carey cited the term “hunting trip” that all three used describing a prior attempt on Waterman’s mother that had Radel hiding in the bushes across from Craig High School waiting for Lauri Waterman.
That attack did not happen because Radel forgot a bolt to attach the barrel to the stock of the rifle. But Waterman wrote in a letter to Arrant that she intended to take a “hunting trip” herself.
Carey read another letter from Waterman to Arrant that said, “Actually I wish I could live with you. It consumes most of my thoughts. It will happen one day. Hopefully not long after Vball. I am actually hoping my dad goes off his rocker and I can have reason for emancipation.”
Waterman was on a school trip to a high school volleyball tournament the night of the murder.
Carey said Waterman was “manipulating two of the biggest losers on this island.”
Carey stated the crime, if charged along without the more serious crimes of conspiracy, would have been tried in juvenile court and the state not having authority to do anything past a juvenile delinquent’s 20th birthday.
“That is why we are still here in a so called adult court,” Carey said. “And I am applying statutes that apply to adults in this case.”
Carey also said probation is not required as Waterman is a perfect case for rehabilitation. He said isolation was not a concern as she was not a menace. He also stated that deterrence for others, community condemnation and societal norms required time be served even after such a lengthy passage since the murder.
Carey imposed three years flat time, taking into account the prosecution’s aggregating factor of a crime of domestic violence and weighing it against the defense’s mitigating motions for juvenile court.
Waterman is required to report to confinement in Juneau by Sept. 2.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.