After news broke in October about Ricky Lee Harnish facing a likely ten-to-24-year sentence for the 1976 rape and murder of teenager Holly Andrews, even Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger admitted to mixed emotions.
But no such confusion afflicted Linda Andrews, wife of Holly's brother, Dave. As she said in this space about Harnish's deal with prosecutors, "We are very distraught. There's no way, shape or form that we would ever have accepted that. But the deal was already made, and we're quite upset as a family about it."
That frustration was only compounded yesterday.
That's when Harnish received the promised 24-year bid -- to which his family responded with wholly understandable rage and grief.
There'd been a possibility that the sentence could have doubled if Harnish's confession had been found to be less than truthful, and Holly's loved ones certainly had doubts about his veracity. Here's how Linda spelled it out a few weeks back:
"He claims she was hitchhiking and he picked her up. But we think he knew her and offered her a ride, and she got in the car. He was 21 when Holly was sixteen, and we've been told that someone remembers him sitting in the background at parties she went to. And he claims that they talked about both going to Heritage High School -- and Holly didn't go to Heritage.
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"He's said he didn't plan on killing her, but that he intended to kill her. And I thought, what does that mean? If she refused to have sex with him and he pulled out his knife knowing that he was going to kill her after he raped her, he had intentions already."
Such potential contradictions didn't derail the deal, which prosecutors had tried to justify to the family by suggesting that Harnish, 54, is unlikely to draw another free breath. "They say he's sick -- he's sick with hepatitis C and diabetes, and he'll live in the part of the prison where they keep all the AIDS patients," Linda said.
However, she added, "We don't care if he dies the day after he's incarcerated. Why should we downgrade Holly's life like that? Who would accept that -- especially someone who's lost a sister?"
No one. But that's the reality the Andrews family faces today.