A Kelso man avoided a third trial and a longer prison sentence over the 2011 killing of his brother-in-law this March by pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter.
Sergey Fedoruk, 45, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 26 for the beating death of his brother-in-law Serhiy Ishchenko. He was originally scheduled to go to trial on a second-degree murder charge for the third time Tuesday, but he took a plea deal March 20 for a lesser conviction of first-degree manslaughter.
For manslaughter, Fedoruk faced a sentencing range roughly 9 to 11 years. Had he been convicted of second-degree murder, his sentencing range would have ranged from about 13 to 21 years.
He already has served about seven years in prison. It wasn’t clear, however, whether he’ll get credit for time served and when his earliest release date would be.
Had he maintained his innocence, he would have been tried for the third time in the killing. His previous trials were both overturned on appeal.
Fedoruk was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2012, but that conviction was thrown out on appeal. Justices cited prosecutorial misconduct and Fedoruk’s defense team’s failure to bring up a mental capacity defense soon enough.
Fedoruk has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to court documents. Defense attorneys argued in his second trial in September 2017 that Fedoruk likely was not taking his medications and was having a psychotic or manic episode during the fatal beating of Ishchenko. After numerous outbursts in court during the second trial, he was ordered by Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning to spend the last portion of that trial in his jail cell.
He was again sentenced to 18 years for second-degree murder in December 2017, but he appealed that conviction on the grounds that his mental health had deteriorated throughout the trial to the point where he was no longer competent.
The Court of Appeals agreed last year, sending the case back to the Cowlitz County Superior Court and setting the stage for a rare third trial. (Only 12 percent of appeals of criminal trial court decisions lead to a reversal, remand or modification of those decisions, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics from 2010.)
But his March guilty plea appears to have put an end to the 8-year case.
In his guilty plea statement, Fedoruk admitted that he “recklessly caused the death of (Ishchenko).” And in a victim statement, Ishchenko’s daughter Katerina Shmidt wrote that “my father’s innocent blood is on (Fedoruk’s) hands.”
Under the terms of his sentence, Fedoruk is also barred from contacting Ishchenko’s family for 50 years. He will also be placed on probation for three years after he leaves prison.