Teen walks as prosecutor decides whether to appeal

Posted: Thursday, March 09, 2006

Craig teenager Rachelle Waterman walked out of Lemon Creek Correctional Center on Wednesday, free on bail the morning after Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins tossed out an indictment charging her with murder and conspiracy in the 2004 killing of her mother.

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Waterman, 17, had been held at Lemon Creek since shortly after her arrest in November 2004.

The girl emerged from a perimeter security fence behind the jail at 11:41 a.m. She wore a white blouse and black pants, and carried a sack with her belongings slung over her right shoulder. She met her father and H.H. Lewis, a private investigator helping the defense. Her father hugged her, lifting her off the ground.

Ketchikan District Attorney Stephen West, the lead prosecutor, will now decide whether to appeal Collins' decision, seek a new indictment or drop the case unless new information comes to light. Collins has set a March 20 hearing for his decision.

West was away from his office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

"I have no decisions, no intuitions one way or the other," defense attorney Steven Wells said. "I'm not even going to speculate on whichever way they're going to go."

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Waterman's trial ended Feb. 14 with a hung jury. Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, the two men who agreed to plead guilty to the first-degree murder of Lauri Waterman, will be sentenced at 10 a.m. today in Ketchikan Superior Court.

Based on developments in the trial, Collins ruled Tuesday that police may have forced Waterman into saying things she would not have voluntarily.

"I was not expecting that, and obviously we were very pleased with that, based upon some of the things that came out of the trial," Wells said.

"I think it's a shock for a lot of people," said Jolene Farmer, an employee at Island Video in Craig and an on-again-off-again resident since 1990. "I think that people are feeling that justice has not been served. It's dragging out a lot of pain and a lot of heartache, not only for those involved but also for the whole community.

"There are a lot of people across the nation that read about this. It pretty much comes down to, 'What is this teaching our youth?'"

Craig Mayor Dennis Watson declined to comment.

"It's a very touchy subject in town," he said.

On Tuesday, Collins lowered Waterman's bail from $150,000 to $50,000. Her father, Carl "Doc" Waterman, posted the required $5,000 of her $50,000 bail on Wednesday morning.

According to the conditions of her release, Waterman must appear at all scheduled hearings, obey all state and federal laws, notify the district attorney of her physical address and not depart Alaska without written permission.

Waterman cannot have direct or indirect contact with any of the witnesses, except for her father and her godparents, Don and Lorraine Pierce. She is forbidden from discussing the trial with them. If Waterman violates any of the conditions, her father will forfeit the remaining $45,000 of bail.

During Tuesday's hearing, Collins advised Waterman against returning to Craig. Doc Waterman said Tuesday that family friends in Juneau have invited Rachelle to stay in their home until her case is settled.

• Empire reporter Tony Carroll contributed to this report.



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