Many observers were shocked by the bargain prosecutors struck with Ricky Lee Harnish, who has confessed to killing teenager Holly Andrews in 1976 -- ten to 24 years in exchange for a second-degree murder plea. Even Clear Creek Sheriff Don Krueger admitted to "mixed emotions" about the length of the sentence. That's not the case for the victim's family, however. Linda Andrews, wife of Dave Andrews, Holly's brother, says everyone is extremely clear about their emotions: "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."
Fortunately, there may be a way to more than double the maximum number of years Harnish could face at his November 30 sentencing. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert says the 24-year max could be boosted to half a century if Harnish is found to have been less than truthful in some portions of his confession. Hence, authorities re-interviewed Harnish after the agreement was reached, and early this afternoon, Linda, Dave and several other family members will sit down to watch a recording of that session with an eye toward identifying inconsistencies in a story they already doubt.
It's not that the Andrews think Harnish is innocent, or that he's covering up for someone who may have helped him kill Holly. Linda, who's been serving as the Andrews' spokesperson in recent weeks, says the DNA evidence that links Harnish to the crime has convinced the family that he was solely responsible for her death. But Harnish insists that he didn't know Holly before the December day she died, and the family believes otherwise. They're convinced he knew her previously, suggesting that his act may have been premeditated first-degree murder -- and therefore deserving of a longer sentence.
"He claims she was hitchhiking and he picked her up," Linda says. "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.
"He's said he didn't plan on killing her, but that he intended to kill her," she continues. "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."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Marijuana Deals Near You
The Andrews family, who originally thought serial killer Henry Lee Lucas was responsible for Holly's death (Lucas' confession was later determined to be bogus), has faithfully attended hearing upon hearing involving Harnish for the past year and nine months, Linda says. According to her, the judge in the matter gave Harnish until October 13 to register a plea, "and he waited until the very last minute." Now she believes "he needs to pay for his actions," and she's not reassured by reports that he's in ill health, rendering the sentencing disparity mute.
"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," she says. "But 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? If he was sentenced to ten years, he could do three of those ten and walk out -- and where is the justice in that? We're pretty angry at our justice system right now as a family, and that makes us hurt more."
In addition to Linda and Dave, Holly's sister Tammy (joined by husbandTony Lani) and her younger brother, known as Andy, will also be watching the interview footage today. And while Linda has only nice things to say about Harnish's mother and sister, who've shown the Andrews family great kindness during their encounters, she feels nothing but contempt for the man currently awaiting his fate. As she puts it, "We want everyone to know the truth about this monster."
And for him to be given a sentence appropriate to his crime.