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A Kelso man who pleaded guilty to killing another man with a knife in December was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday morning.

Austin Murray, 25, admitted on Sept. 6 that he killed Ryan Hoven, 35, on Dec. 22. Murray initially denied attacking Hoven, but officers later found a red switchblade at Murray’s residence believed to be involved in the attack.

“Austin was only out of jail for two days before killing Ryan,” Hoven’s mother, Wanda Beck told Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning. “Our family will never forget what he did.”

“I believe Ryan is in heaven watching over us ... In our hearts, he’ll never be completely gone.”

In passing the sentence, Warning said the case showed how drugs “kill lots of people in lots of ways.” It doesn’t excuse or mitigate Murray’s actions, he said.

“(But) we have two families that aren’t going to be the same for a long time. ... Nothing I do today is going to fix any of this. You folks have to rely on each other.”

Murray declined to speak at the sentencing. His attorney said he had struggled to find the right words in the week since making his plea.

Murray previously faced charges of aggravated first-degree murder, second-degree assault, and possession of heroin. He pleaded guilty last week to a single charge of first-degree murder as part of his deal with the prosecution and Hoven’s family.

“No crime is more serious,” Prosecutor Eric Bentson said during sentencing. “No crime is more horrific.”

Defense attorney Ian Maher said 30 years was “a fair sentence.”

“(It’s) 30 years to reflect, 30 years to really decide what he wants to do with his life,” Maher said.

Murray will also be on probation for three years after leaving prison and must pay a portion of Hoven’s funeral costs.

Hoven’s family and defense attorney emphasized that despite his criminal record and drug issues, Hoven loved and was loved by many.

“I know my brother loved all three of his kids more than they will ever know,” Hoven’s sister Randi Dawn Beck wrote in a statement to the court.

“Ryan chose to do what he chose to do, but he didn’t choose to be murdered,” said Randall Beck, Hoven’s father.

Beck added that, when Murray is ready to do so, “he knows where I am if he wants to talk to me.”

Murray’s mother expressed sympathy to both Hoven’s family and her son.

“I understand that Ryan’s mom will never be able to hold her son ... and I am very sorry for that,” she said. “I love Austin from the bottom of my heart. Please understand that he’s not a bad person. He just made a bad decision.”

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