CHEHALIS — Randolph Graham was sentenced to 66 years and eight months in prison Tuesday afternoon for murdering his Winlock next-door neighbor and attempting to kill his son last May.
The sentence means Graham, 59, likely will spend the rest of his life behind bars for shooting Randy Lester, 44.
However, Graham’s lawyer, David Arcuri, filed a notice of appeal toward his client’s conviction and sentence. Arcuri declined to share the specific grounds of appeal but said that an exceptional sentence, which Graham received, “is an automatic appeal.”
“Summing up the pain ... seems an impossible task,” Lester’s wife, Rachel Lester, told Lewis County Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee in asking for the maximum sentence. “Randolph Graham stole from us the man I was supposed to grow old with.”
She said the trauma of the May 23 shooting remains with the family, and she did not want her sons to “fear the future,” referring to the possibility of Graham surviving beyond his prison sentence.
Graham, who maintained throughout the trial that he shot Lester in self-defense, made a succinct statement in court Tuesday: “I told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s all I got.”
Under the standard sentencing range for his charges, Graham faced between 48 years and five months and 61 years and two months in prison. His attorney asked for a minimum sentence but acknowledged that Graham would likely stay in prison the rest of his life no matter what.
Judge Toynbee agreed with the prosecution’s request for an exceptional sentence.
“It struck me from the beginning of this trial how utterly senseless (the shooting) was. ... (Graham) is unremorseful, not taking any responsibility,” Toynbee said.
After deliberating just two hours, a Lewis County jury convicted Graham Aug. 29 of shooting and killing Lester while Lester and his son played basketball in their driveway. Graham also was convicted of trying to kill Lester’s son Hunter, 16, while he fled. The prosecution argued that the trail of bullet holes which hit the Lesters’ home followed Hunter’s path as he ran behind the house.
The trial included testimony by forensic experts and Lester’s wife and son. Rachel Lester testified that Graham had been confrontational over a shared well and its electricity bills for most of the two years the neighbors lived next to one another. Graham entered their property without permission to take photos, she said, and stopped speaking to her after a confrontation last year over the Lesters’ basketball hoop.
Graham’s father testified that his son was also upset over the shooting of his pet rabbits, which were Graham’s beloved pets. The prosecution argued that these issues boiled up for Graham and drove him to kill Lester.
Testifying the day before his conviction, Graham argued he shot Lester in self-defense.
Graham said he only shot Lester after his neighbor walked up to his truck, put his cigarette out on his truck, and pulled out a pistol. Graham said he shot at Lester three times with a handgun he had placed on the console. Lester fled, and Graham chased after him “to disarm him,” he said.
Lester tripped, Graham said, and began turning onto his side while lying prone. So Graham shot him again, he said, thinking Lester was turning to fire at him.
Lester’s family testified that Lester did not have a gun with him at the time.
Graham was also convicted on charges of illegally manufacturing and possessing marijuana. Police found cannabis plants and a large amount of cannabis in Graham’s home when responding to the shooting.