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Washington v. Russell


MADSEN, J. -- George W. Russell was convicted by a King County jury of the first degree murder of Mary Ann Pohlreich and the aggravated first degree murders of Carol Beethe and Andrea Levine.

Russell appealed, and the Court of Appeals certified his appeal to this court pursuant to RCW 2.06.030. Before examining the issues presented, we will briefly outline the facts pertinent to each count.


Count 1--Mary Ann Pohlreich

On Friday, June 22, 1990, Mary Ann Pohlreich went to Papagayo's, a Bellevue night club, with two friends. The three drove in Pohlreich's car. Her two friends left Pohlreich at Papagayo's at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Early the next morning, Pohlreich's body was found partially inside the dumpster corral area in the parking lot behind the Black Angus restaurant, about a mile from Papagayo's. Pohlreich's body was unclothed, but she was wearing two pieces of jewelry. There was a Frito Lay dip container lid over her right eye and forehead, her arms were folded over her stomach, her legs were extended and crossed at the ankles, and she had a pine cone in one of her hands.

Though there were a number of significant injuries, the King County medical examiner determined that the most likely cause of death was manual strangulation. Pohlreich's skull fracture and numerous facial injuries appeared to have been inflicted by a fist. Pohlreich's liver had two widely separated lacerations, and she had a distinct anal tear that the medical examiner opined was caused by a solid, nonhuman object. Pohlreich had a blood alcohol level of .14 percent at the time of her death.

Pohlreich's purse, sweater, and car were found at Papagayo's. The police discovered that on the evening of Pohlreich's death George Russell went to Papagayo's with his friend Smith McLain to have dinner. Once there, Russell and another friend talked to Pohlreich. After dinner, Russell borrowed the keys to McLain's truck, explaining that he had to change into a shirt with a collar as required on Papagayo's dance floor. Russell had a duffle bag in the truck.

A Bellevue police officer was working off duty that night as a doorman at Papagayo's. He often spoke with Russell, a frequent patron of the nightclub. That night he saw Russell twice: once shortly after he began his shift at 10:30 p.m. and again approximately an hour later. On the second occasion, Russell told the officer that he was going to take "this girl" over to her place to get something. Verbatim Report on Appeal, at 4042, 4052. The officer did not see the woman well enough to identify her; however, he described her size as being similar to Pohlreich's, and he noticed that the woman seemed very intoxicated.

Russell did not return to Papagayo's that evening with the truck. McLain was upset and spent the rest of the evening waiting for him at the Overlake Denny's where it was customary for Papagayo's patrons to go after closing. At around 5:30 a.m., McLain found a ride home.

On the morning that Pohlreich's body was discovered, Russell telephoned the McLain residence. Russell said that he had been out looking for McLain all night. At approximately 6 a.m., McClain's sister, Shawn Calvo, saw Russell return in her brother's truck. Russell told her that he had borrowed the truck to drive a friend home and then could not find McLain. During this conversation Calvo noticed a reddish-orange stain on the passenger seat of the truck. Russell explained that his friend had vomited clam chowder in the truck. Russell declined Calvo's offer of a ride home and walked away with his duffle bag.

McLain woke up after Russell had left and

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