Murder suspect William C. Lee changes plea
A West Richland man pleaded guilty Wednesday to the strangling death of his former co-worker.
William C. Lee, 25, admitted to second-degree murder with the aggravating circumstance of excessive injury.
He originally was charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree murder for the Dec. 9 death of Alisa J. Brewer. Then it was bumped up to first-degree when county prosecutors said his actions were premeditated.
Last week, prosecutors amended the charge back to second-degree murder based on the recent opinion of a forensic pathologist and Brewer’s autopsy results.
Lee called 911 at 1:20 a.m. to report he’d “killed a lady in my apartment,” was going to kill himself and was alerting police because they would need to do some cleanup.
A dispatcher who stayed on the phone with Lee for 44 minutes asked if he was sure Brewer was dead.
“I’m telling you there ain’t no doubt about it, there’s a corpse sitting in my apartment right now because I made a bad decision,” Lee said, according to the 911 recording.
Brewer, 53, and Lee had worked together at Barnhart Crane & Rigging, which has a branch office in Richland.
She was found naked on the floor with a leather belt tightened around her neck.
On Wednesday, Prosecutor Andy Miller said he and defense attorney Megan Whitmire concluded the crime was more consistent with second-degree murder, meaning Brewer died during an assault.
The defense hired an independent forensic pathologist to review the case file.
Miller said the two sides agreed that Brewer died from being strangled, but some injuries to her head also contributed to her death.
However, she had additional injuries to her face that did not cause her death and were evidence of an assault.
Lee’s trial was scheduled to start Sept. 9.
He had no felony criminal history before the murder. He faces a standard range of 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months.
Sentencing is set for Oct. 11.
Prosecutors plan to recommend an exceptional sentence above the standard range at 22 years. Brewer’s family is in agreement with that recommendation, Miller said.
Her family was not in court on Wednesday.
The defense will be free to argue for time within the state range, according to the plea statement.