^
Keep Westword Free
4
| Crime |

Double the sentence for rapist/murderer Ricky Lee Harnish? He's certainly earned it...

Ricky Lee Harnish traded a confession in the 1976 Holly Andrews case for a reduced charge with a potential ten-to-24-year sentence -- waaaay too sweet a deal for a guy who admits to raping and murdering a sixteen-year-old girl. Even Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger admits to mixed emotions about this bargain. But Mark Hurlbert, District Attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, says there's a chance the 24-year maximum could be multiplied by more than two if he and his staff determine that Harnish hasn't come clean with them. "If we don't think Mr. Harnish is telling the truth, then he's looking at a ten-to-fifty year sentence," Hurlbert says.

Although Hurlbert declines to detail suspicions about Harnish's account, the potential prevarication doesn't sound like a repeat of 1983, when convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas claimed to have slain Andrews -- after which authorities came to the conclusion that he was merely trying to pad his grisly body count by taking credit for this act. Hurlbert adds that the decision by members of his staff to interview Harnish again yesterday wasn't prompted by outcry from Andrews' family or members of the public over the modesty of the murderer's potential time behind bars; doing so was routine, he stresses. Now, he says, "we need to check things out and compare what he told us with the forensic evidence we have." If Harnish "told the truth about his involvement in the crime," the ten-to-24-year range could hold sway. If not, he may be facing an extended stay, and a de facto life-in-prison jolt.

Harnish's sentencing is slated for November 30, and there's a good chance word about a possible change won't surface before then. "Our evaluation will be complete next week, but I don't know if the courts are going to want to release that or not" before the scheduled hearing. In the meantime, Hurlbert says his office's decision to put Harnish's account to the test will have no impact on the agreement that prompted his confession. "No, the deal's not off," he emphasizes, even if it gets worse from Harnish's perspective.

And better for the rest of humanity.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.