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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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts