By Scott North, Herald Writer
EVERETT — For more than 19 years he was the focus of their pain and fear.
He was the faceless specter in nightmares, the reason for making sure all the doors were locked tight.
He wrung the joy from Sunday dinner gatherings, from camping trips along the river.
When Patti Berry’s family would come together, the loss and unanswered questions were always right there, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss was told Wednesday.
Would the person who ended her life at 26 ever be identified? Would he be held to account for the 1995 killing?
A jury last month found Danny Ross Giles guilty
of first-degree murder in Berry’s killing. It was a conviction built on persistence and DNA tests and the lies Giles told to distance himself after being confronted by cold-case detectives.
On Wednesday, members of the slain Arlington woman’s large family urged the judge to send the serial sex offender to prison for as long as possible, to spare others the same kind of hurt.
It’s “time for Dan Giles’ life of crime to be over,” said Lisa Berry, the slain woman’s older sister.
Weiss sentenced Giles to 47.5 years behind bars, the maximum under state guidelines.
The judge noted that Berry was stabbed up to 18 times, mostly in the neck and face. He called it “a brutal, savage, unprovoked attack on a defenseless mother.”
Berry ran into her killer on the way home from her job working as a dancer at Honey’s, a nude nightclub that used to be along Highway 99, south of Everett. She left behind a daughter, then just 2.
On Wednesday, that young woman walked to the front of the courtroom to comfort her grandmother, Nancy Stensrud, as she struggled through tears to tell the judge what it has been like during the long years seeking justice for her daughter.
Jessica Berry is now in her early 20s. She told Weiss that she didn’t have the chance to get to know her mother. She urged him to send the killer away.
“I want all of this to be put to rest,” she said.
Giles, 46, still faces an April murder trial for the May 1995 disappearance and presumed death of Tracey Brazzel
. His DNA reportedly was found on Brazzel’s car. He also allegedly admitted to being in the 22-year-old woman’s Lynnwood apartment.
Weiss had severed the two cases
, forcing prosecutors to try them separately. The judge said he knew that Giles would be appealing his conviction, but he stood by his decisions.
Public defenders Neal Friedman and Linda Coburn remain convinced of his innocence, the judge was told.
They offered Giles a spirited defense to the Berry murder charge, attempting to convince jurors the investigation was flawed by police missteps, including a rush to judgment after tests in 2008 turned up Giles’ DNA on the steering wheel of the car where Berry bled to death.
The steering wheel had been removed, secured and packed away within days of the 1995 killing. Years later, cold-case detective Jim Scharf asked that it be examined using forensic techniques that weren’t available when Berry was murdered.
Friedman on Wednesday wasn’t ready to concede. He urged the judge to toss out the Berry verdict and to order a new trial. Defense attorneys should have been allowed to tell jurors about people they considered alternate suspects — including a former sheriff’s deputy who even Friedman acknowledged was not a match for the DNA on the steering wheel.
Other DNA was found in the car and under Berry’s fingernails and whoever left it remains unidentified, Friedman said.
“How Patti Berry was murdered is the million-dollar question,” he said. “Nobody knows.”
Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said there was a sexual element because Berry’s killer left her nude below the waist. Giles has a history of rape and other offenses against women and girls, he noted.
The defendant had no known ties to Berry, but the ferocity of the attack left little doubt of the intent to kill, Matheson said.
“It is just hard to fathom a more predatory act,” he said.
Giles’ sister told the judge that he’s not a monster, that he’s a loving brother capable of kindness. Giles appeared to tear up as she spoke. For most of the hearing, however, he just looked bored.
Giles took his opportunity to speak to question the competence of his attorneys, to accuse detectives of perjury and to read into the record parts of police reports that documented mishandling of evidence by the former lead detective in the case.
Oh, Giles said almost as an afterthought, he maintains his innocence.
Weiss was not impressed. He said Giles had shown no remorse, no responsibility and an “appalling” lack of appreciation for the hard work his public defenders did on his behalf.
He also said that he considered Giles’ statements in court to be “tactical,” not unlike the way he reacted when the detectives asked him to explain how his DNA wound up in Berry’s car all those years ago.