Timothy Haag, who received a mandatory life sentence for murdering his 7-year-old Longview neighbor in 1994, will be re-sentenced Friday under a mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court.
There’s at least a possibility that Haag, now 39, could be sentenced to time served and be released with a few months.
Haag admitted in 1995 to choking and drowning Rachel Dillard, saying he was taking revenge on her family for treating the girl’s teenager half brother, Alex Anderson, “like dirt.” Haag told psychologists in 2015 that he had been in love with Anderson.
Haag, then 17, was tried as an adult under Washington State’s 1994 Youth Violence Reduction Act. But the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders are unconstitutional. A subsequent 2016 ruling made that ruling retroactive, requiring re-sentences for offenders like Haag.
Anderson, the victim’s brother, plans to attend the resentencing, which will take place in Cowlitz County Superior Court. He will argue against Haag receiving a lighter sentence. Anderson said that news of the re-sentencing made him furious.
“I flew into a fit of rage immediately,” said Anderson, now a resident of Eugene, Ore. “There was thoughts of revenge. I can’t go that route. I’m a father and I have to be there for my daughter.”
According to court records filed by his public defender, Simmie Baer, Haag has “led an exemplary life in prison.” Last April, Baer recommended a 25-year sentence for Haag, who had already served 22 years of his sentence at the time. It is unclear whether Haag would be released if given a 25-year sentence based on his good behavior in prison.
Anderson, however, disputes that Haag is reformed.
“This was not some accident, not some ‘Oh, it just happened’ (situation),” Anderson said. “He murdered Rachel in the most vicious manner possible. I can’t believe the caseworkers are looking at it as ‘one bad mistake.’ This is one ... hell of a mistake.”
Friday sentencing hearing will be the first time Anderson will have seen his parents in 22 years, he said. Anderson said he left his family after years of abuse in his childhood.
The two Supreme Court rulings affect approximately 2,100 offenders nationwide, according to research by the Juvenile Law Center. According to the 2016 retroactivity ruling, states may resolve those cases by “extending parole eligibility to juvenile offenders.” Friday’s trial will likely determine whether that eligibility is extended to Haag.
Jeremy Barclay, the communications director at the Washington State Department of Corrections, said the number of these cases that end with offenders going free “is a mixed bag.”
“There has not been a set pattern,” Barclay said. Typically, however, once offenders serve 20 to 25 years, judges “more often than not” agree to release the offenders, he said.
“It’s a little more rare, but not unheard of, that they say you have more time (to serve).”
Barclay added that even if a judge agrees to release an offender, the inmate is not usually freed immediately and must go through a pre-release process.
“It is more the case that it is not an immediate release,” Barclay said. “It’s a checklist of making sure that residence is established (and) that they have a pro-social support system waiting for them.”
Anderson is seeking community support for the trial and created a public event shared to his personal Facebook page and several Cowlitz area groups to encourage people to attend the trial. Anderson said he needs community voices to tell the court to not release Haag.
“When this trial occurred, I was promised he would never see the light of day again,” Anderson said. “I have a two-year old daughter; I can’t just move away. I’m very uncomfortable knowing I’m a state away from (Haag).”