Guilty pleas close two cases with local ties

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

A pair of high-profile, Plateau criminal cases - each resulting in the death of an innocent man - were resolved recently with guilty pleas entered into Pierce County Superior Court.

Kenneth Eugene Clark pleaded guilty June 27 to one count of vehicular homicide for causing the wreck that claimed the life of Enumclaw resident Shane Wyrsch. Three days later, Paula Jennifer Marshall pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, admitting to shooting Christopher Smith to death in the parking lot of a Buckley business.

Clark, 45, is an admitted methamphetamine addict and acknowledged he had no business behind the wheel of a vehicle the night of March 20, 2007. Driving while impaired, he crossed the centerline of state Route 410 near Buckley and slammed his vehicle into a pickup driven by Wyrsch.

The accident took the life of the 35-year-old U.S. Forest Service officer, husband, son and father of two young boys.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Larkin sentenced Clark to five years, one month in prison. The sentence is at the high end of the standard sentencing range and exceeded the punishment previously agreed to by both the prosecutor and defense attorney.

The judge's order brought an end to a hearing that was long on emotion, as testimony was offered by Wyrsch's friends, a co-worker and wife Zoe.

Marshall offered a guilty plea in what is believed to be Buckley's first murder in a century and is expected to be sentenced in early September.

Marshall, 30, admitted she waited in the parking lot of the White Horse Restaurant for her former boyfriend, then gunned him down when he walked toward his vehicle.

Marshall and Smith had been a couple for more than five years before breaking up and their relationship had produced a son, who was 4 at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors alleged that Marshall had stolen a gun from a family member and used it to shoot Smith multiple times. She then pistol-whipped Smith while he was on the ground, according to court documents.

She was arrested less than an hour after the shooting, found by police at her home between Buckley and Bonney Lake.

It is expected she will receive a sentence of 24 years, nine months to 31 years, 11 months in prison.

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