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Saturday, April 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Deal nets killer's confession

Seattle Times staff reporter

An Everett man who had been facing a possible death sentence for the 1995 slaying of a 7-year-old girl will spend the rest of his life in prison under an agreement reached Friday.

For the first time since Roxanne Doll's rape and stabbing, Richard Clark confessed what he had done. Before then, he claimed someone else was responsible.

The 45-minute hearing came just days before his attorneys and Snohomish County prosecutors were to begin impaneling another jury to determine whether he should return to death row or spend life in prison.

In 2001, the Washington State Supreme Court overturned Clark's death sentence because justices believed Snohomish County prosecutors shouldn't have divulged details of one of Clark's past offenses during his sentencing hearing. His aggravated first-degree murder conviction was left intact, but Clark was to have another sentencing trial.

Roxanne's family went to Snohomish County Prosecutor Janice Ellis and asked her to strike the deal with Clark.

"It's over now for Roxanne Doll's family," Ellis said Friday night. "They said, 'We've lived with this 11 years,' and it was so very clear to me that they haven't been able to move forward."

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roe said he called Clark's lawyers Friday morning, and Clark agreed to waive all future challenges related to his conviction.

"The victim's family wanted him to stand up in front of them and admit what he's done, and today he did that," Roe said. "He had always pointed the finger at other people."

Asked whether her decision not to pursue the death penalty had anything to do with Gary Ridgway, the man convicted in the Green River killings but spared the death penalty, Ellis said no.

"He [Clark] certainly deserves the death penalty," Ellis said. "This comes down to the [Doll] family."

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Ridgway pleaded guilty to killing 48 women in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison. When King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng let him plead guilty to avoid a potential death sentence, legal experts wondered whether the agreement would make it impossible for the state high court to uphold the death penalty during mandatory reviews of each capital-punishment case.

It took a jury 2- hours in 1997 to determine that Clark should be sent to death row. The justices who overturned his sentence said Snohomish County jurors were prejudiced when prosecutors told them Clark had been convicted of locking a 4-year-old girl in his grandfather's garage.

On March 31, 1995, Clark and Roxanne's father spent part of the night drinking at a neighbor's house. Clark, then 26, left but later returned to the neighborhood.

In court Friday, Clark admitted that he sneaked into Roxanne's bedroom through a window, Roe said. As her 5-year-old sister slept in the bottom bunk, he lured the older girl from the home with the promise she could play with his puppy.

Clark then drove to a brushy, north Everett hillside and raped the girl while they were in his van. He then stabbed Roxanne to death and buried her under yard clippings in an area of blackberry bushes on a steep slope above railroad tracks.

Clark returned to Roxanne's house and drank with her father. The men then went on a camping trip, which ended when the father, Tim Iffrig, learned of his daughter's disappearance.

After Friday's hearing, Ellis handed a bracelet of the girl's to her mother. Gail Doll then put the bracelet on her younger daughter's wrist, Roe said.

Members of Roxanne's family could not be reached for comment Friday.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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