Crime

UPDATE: 2 teens sentenced to combined 20 years for abducting Kennewick great-grandmother

BCSO Detective Sgt. Kevin McCary testifies at teen kidnapping suspect hearing

Detective Sgt. Kevin McCary of the Benton County Sheriff Office testifies at a hearing for teen kidnapping suspect Billy Underwood. The 15-year-old from Kennewick is one of three teens accused of kidnapping and threatening to kill Hazel Abel, 86,
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Detective Sgt. Kevin McCary of the Benton County Sheriff Office testifies at a hearing for teen kidnapping suspect Billy Underwood. The 15-year-old from Kennewick is one of three teens accused of kidnapping and threatening to kill Hazel Abel, 86,

An 87-year-old Kennewick woman will never see her great-grandson again after he targeted her in an apparent murder plot just to steal her car.

Dyllan K. Martin and his friend, Billy J. Underwood, planned to attack and kill Hazel Abel.

They tied her up, gagged her, placed her in the trunk of her 2001 Dodge Neon. They drove her six hours into Oregon before she escaped when they stopped at a Walmart for food and supplies.

“I can’t begin to tell you boys how sorry I am for what you’ve all been through these past few months,” Abel said in a statement read to the court. “It could have ended so much worse than it did if you’d carried out the plans you had for me.”

In separate hearings Thursday, Judge Alex Ekstrom found that Underwood “physically executed more of the plan, but Mr. Martin offered up his great-grandmother.”

For that, Ekstrom ordered Underwood to serve 10  1/2 years for the abduction — one more year than Martin’s 9  1/2 -year sentence.

I can’t begin to tell you boys how sorry I am for what you’ve all been through these past few months. It could have ended so much worse than it did if you’d carried out the plans you had for me.

Hazel Abel, victim

The Benton County Superior Court judge said it was appropriate to go above the standard range for kidnapping because both teens knew their actions on Nov. 2 were wrong and that Abel was vulnerable and incapable of resistance.

“It’s a case where the mind simply wants to turn away from the image of Ms. Abel locked in her own trunk,” Ekstrom said.

Martin, now 17, and Underwood, 15, showed “a profound lack of respect for someone who has obtained that age,” said Ekstrom.

He separately noted it was to Abel’s credit that, while sitting in the front row of court for almost two hours, she had been gracious and composed beyond what one could expect in such circumstances.

Abel sat on one side of the courtroom with Yessica Rosas, the victim/witness unit supervisor in the prosecutor’s office, while her relatives and Martin’s family sat behind him across the aisle.

It’s a case where the mind simply wants to turn away from the image of Ms. Abel locked in her own trunk.

Judge Alex Ekstrom, Benton County Superior Court

Underwood separately had a dozen family members and supporters in court for his hearing.

Abel said it has “proven to be a very expensive trip to Portland” for Martin, Underwood and co-defendant KateLynn Kenfield. She pointed out how none of them had a driver’s license, and now they all have lost their freedom and won’t be able to enjoy birthdays or family trips for some time.

“Prison life won’t be easy for either of you. Your actions will follow your records,” Abel said to the teen boys. “People have been so angry about what you did to me that it has been safer for you to be in jail.”

“I’ve asked why so many times and yet haven’t been able to be given an acceptable answer,” she added. “Behave yourself in prison and maybe some day you will have a good life.”

Martin and Underwood previously pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and theft of a vehicle. The kidnapping charge included aggravating circumstances, including that the crime was deliberately cruel.

I’ve asked why so many times and yet haven’t been able to be given an acceptable answer. Behave yourself in prison and maybe some day you will have a good life.

Hazel Abel, victim

Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell — who prosecuted Kenfield in Juvenile Court — recommended a 14-year sentence, nearly double the standard range, for each one.

Martin is “the one who identified (Abel) as the easy mark” and unscrewed her porch light so she wouldn’t recognize her attackers, Howell said. Underwood took care to plan the crime so they would avoid getting caught, like driving away from the home with the car lights off and searching for desolate places along Interstate 84 to leave Abel, he said.

Martin had no felony history before this case. He was automatically charged as an adult because he was 16 at the time of the kidnapping.

His attorney, Alexandria Sheridan, asked the court to go below the range with a 4 1/2-year term.

Martin “is a child” with mental health issues, Sheridan said. Instead of dehumanizing Martin and throwing him away as a criminal, he need mental health treatment and rehabilitation, she argued.

“The only thing I have to say is I’m sorry,” Martin said, never turning to look at his great-grandmother. “This was the worst decision I have ever made.”

The only thing I have to say is I’m sorry. This was the worst decision I have ever made.

Dyllan K. Martin, grandson

Underwood’s criminal history includes a residential burglary conviction when he was 12. He also was tried in this case as an adult.

Defense attorney Dennis Hanson said his client “shattered the security that Ms. Abel had in her own home” and he can never give that back.

However, he disputed statements that Underwood intended to kill Abel, sat on her chest while in the house or scouted for locations to dispose of her body.

He added that before the teens left the house, Abel asked for her Chihuahua, Tessa, and a blanket, and Underwood got those for the woman to make it “a bit more comfortable.”

Underwood lacks impulse control and “does not have a fully developed adult brain,” Hanson said. He asked for a lesser sentence.

A tearful Kandi Jaramillo pleaded with the judge for leniency for her son, saying he got caught up with the wrong person at the wrong time.

“He’s not the bad boy that everybody is making him out to be,” she said. “Those are all lies. I can assure you I brought him up with love. He would never hurt an elderly person in his life.”

Underwood apologized to Abel and his own family.

“I’m going to do everything and anything I can to better my life,” he said. “I just hope Ms. Abel can forgive me in the future for what I have done.”

I’m going to do everything and anything I can to better my life. I just hope Ms. Abel can forgive me in the future for what I have done.

Billy Underwood, defendant

Ekstrom questioned if the measurement of a person’s worth is in a car or a ride in a car.

“All of this could have been avoided by hitchhiking, getting a bus ticket,” he said.

Underwood and Martin will go to a state juvenile institution until their 18th birthdays. At that point, the state will review each case and decide if it is beneficial to keep them in the juvenile facility until age 21, or transfer them to a Department of Corrections prison.

Kenfield was convicted by a judge last month of first-degree kidnapping, residential burglary and second-degree vehicle theft.

She has been ordered to serve 2 to 2  1/2 years in a state juvenile institution. She is appealing her convictions.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer

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