Ten-to-24 for rape and murder of a teenager? Is it blue-light-special day at the plea-bargain mart?

Of course it's good news that 54-year-old Ricky Lee Harnish, the killer of Holly Andrews, who went missing in December 1976, has belatedly -- really belatedly -- taken responsibility for the crime. But the price of this confession was a reduced charge of second-degree murder and a likely sentence of between ten and twenty-four years.

Less than a quarter century in stir for raping and stabbing a teenager to death, dumping her body near Bakerville, and then skating for almost 33 years? Sounds like too rich a bargain, especially given DNA evidence against him. True, the deal means Andrews' family will avoid the heartbreak of a potentially drawn-out trial. But the scheduled November 30 sentencing won't be a breeze, either, particularly given the likelihood that Harnish will live long enough to breathe free again someday. If only the same could be said of Holly.


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