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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

July 20, 2009 at 1:19 PM

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Former caregiver sentenced for nursing home slaying

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan

A Kenyan man who beat and strangled an elderly woman outside a Federal Way nursing home last year was sentenced today to more than 16 years in prison.

Joseph Njonge was found guilty of second-degree murder during a jury trial last month. The 25-year-old man maintains his innocence.

Jane Britt, 75, was strangled in the parking lot of her husband's Federal Way nursing home on March 18, 2008. Her body was found in the trunk of her car parked outside the Garden Terrace Alzheimer's Center of Excellence the following day.

Police said that Britt fought furiously against her attacker, scratching him so hard that investigators were able to cull a complete DNA profile from the skin cells found under her fingernails. Njonge's DNA matched the cells found underneath Britt's nails. Her husband's Costco card was found in Njonge's wallet.

Howard Britt, the slain woman's son, said after the sentencing hearing this morning that he is working hard to forgive Njonge. He said that every day he says to himself "I forgive Njonge."

"I miss her very much," Britt said about his mother. "I wish him [Njonge] well. I wish when he finishes his sentence the Lord blesses his life."

Njonge declined to speak at today's sentencing hearing. His sister, Ann Njonge, of Seattle, said that he's not guilty.

"I don't know what happened, but I know Joseph is innocent," Ann Njonge testified.

Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh said that her decision to give Njonge a middle of the range sentence, when he has no prior criminal history, was based on Britt's age and the fact that Njonge was trusted by the Britt family.

"This was very ugly," Middaugh said. "This impacted the community in no way I probably would have thought of."

Defense attorney Phil Sayles, said that when Njonge completes his sentence he will likely be deported to Kenya. Sayles said he has appealed the conviction based on errors he believes Middaugh made during pre-trial hearings.

Sayles was requesting a sentence of about 10 years in prison. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom said in court that she still believes that Njonge should have been found guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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