OKANOGAN — Her family says Vickey Lee Harvey was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside, and that she still looked like the Omak homecoming queen when she was brutally murdered in October 2011, at age 59.
Her killer, Benjamin Bridges, was sentenced in Okanogan County Superior Court to 24 years and three months in prison for her death Thursday, the lowest sentence in a standard range for first-degree premeditated murder.
Bridges pleaded guilty to the charge on May 1, and on Thursday expressed regret for his actions.
“She was a very beautiful person, and I am very sorry for her being taken away, period,” Bridges said. “If I could give my life and bring her back, I would. There won’t be a day goes by that I’m not suffering for what I did, and rightly so,” he added.
But through his lawyer, Emma Paulson, Bridges also implicated someone else before his sentencing, describing to the court a jealous woman who didn’t like the fact that Bridges and Harvey were in a relationship, or that she was taking care of his children.
Paulson said Bridges came back to the Kat’s Kradle — a thrift store in Omak where Bridges worked — to find the woman hitting Harvey over the head with a hammer, with a pillow over her face. “Basically, he finished the job,” she told the court. “He murdered her in a moment of fear and stupidity. He didn’t know what else to do except comply and carry through.”
Prosecutor Karl Sloan told the court that police have investigated Bridges’ claim that the woman, and others, were involved in the murder, but none of those claims panned out. “There is, at this point, no indication that anyone else was involved in the murder,” he said. He also recounted several other stories that Bridges told police which turned out to be false.
Harvey’s family, too, said they believe that Bridges acted alone. “This guy is a master manipulator of vulnerable woman, and of course he’s going to blame somebody else,” Jana Dieter, Harvey’s cousin, said after the hearing.
Some of the 18 friends and family members who came to Thursday’s sentencing were not happy that Bridges got the lowest possible sentence within the standard range. He could have received up to 32 years in prison, and Culp said before rendering a decision that aspects of the crime were horrific enough to warrant it.
But, he decided, the recommendation by Sloan — made in consultation with Harvey’s family — carried much weight. He said he hoped family members took some comfort in not having to endure a trial, or possibly years of appeals.
He also it’s up to law endorcement to figure out whether someone else was involved.
Bridges was arrested soon after a resident found Harvey’s body on a dirt road near Bridgeport on Oct. 8, 2011. He was initially charged in Douglas County, but the case was moved to Okanogan County at his request, after prosecutors agreed Harvey was likely killed here, and her body dumped off the private road.
She suffered a broken neck and several blows to her head that caused skull fractures and brain damage.
Harvey’s daughter, Tisha Goodman, and several of her cousins, aunts and uncles attended the hearing. Many sobbed as first Sloan, and later Poulson, described the blunt blows to her head that killed her.
“Nothing you say here today, Ben Bridges, will change the way this family feels,” Dieter said in a statement before the court. “Implicating or blaming others is just what you do. YOu brutally ended the life of someone who meant so much to her family.”
And as for Harvey, who had been a cheerleader and homecoming queen at Omak High School, “We will look back on her during better times and remember her pretty smile. We have her daughters and grandchildren to remember her by, and fond memories of a very beautiful person.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512