A judge sentenced David Henkleman to more than 35 years in prison Wednesday for fatally stabbing Casey Heath exactly one year ago on the smoking patio of McCoy's Tavern in downtown Olympia.
Inside a courtroom packed with Heath's family and friends, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller handed down a 35-year, seven-month prison sentence, the maximum allowable for Henkleman, 35.
"The court cannot ignore that you brutally murdered Casey Heath, a defenseless man you did not know, for no reason," Schaller said.
Schaller read countless victim impact statements and heard words of grief from Heath's loved ones Wednesday before handing down the sentence.
A family friend of Heath's father, David, spoke about how a few years back, Casey Heath helped him move his belongings when he moved to Olympia, never even having met him before.
"A person I didn't know, spent time, his morning, helping a stranger move into a community," Gerald Day said. "I remember when he saw my skateboard and he rode it around and rode it in and out of the storage unit and performed tricks that amazed me. We had a good talk and a good visit and he was surprised when I gave him money. He didn't expect it. That's the kind of person he was."
"That's the kind of people we need in a society to keep it moving," Day added.
Heath's girlfriend, Katie Meyer, sobbed as she described the void in her life after Heath's death. She said the night Heath died, he had visited her at home and brought her a quesadilla and some carrot cake. "He looked me in the eyes, he kissed me and told me how much he loved me," she said.
Schaller remarked that after hearing from Heath's loved ones and testimony about Heath during Henkleman's trial, she learned that Heath was a "gentle and loving soul." Schaller also said that she was impressed to learn that Heath always seemed to always have a smile on his face and found time to help others, including his grandparents.
"He was kind, he was talented and he never would have thought about hurting anyone," Schaller said.
Heath, 32 when he died, was known around Olympia as an expert skateboarder who competed at events across the country and abroad. Heath's stepmother, Vicki Stout, said Heath "was always happy to help out kids with skating tips and instruction."
"Casey was a down to earth guy," she added. "He was honest and real. He wasn't into money or material possessions. He was easygoing and peaceful. He had the ability to talk to anyone and be a friend."
Stout added in court that Casey's father David "is heartbroken, he still cannot speak of Casey's death without breaking down in tears."
Schaller said she cannot fathom the depth of the sorrow of Heath's loved ones, but added that from what she has heard of his personality, Heath would have wanted them to move on from the tragedy and "find some joy and happiness" in their lives.
At Henkleman's trial, jurors heard evidence that Henkleman stabbed Heath 13 times in an unprovoked attack about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2012. Two of Heath's friends came to his aid on the smoking patio at McCoy's, and Henkleman also stabbed them. The two men suffered only minor injuries from their stab wounds.
Patrons at McCoy's chased Henkleman from the bar after the stabbing, and when police cornered Henkleman outside on State Avenue, Henkleman was holding the still-bloodied knife to his own throat. Olympia officers used a Taser to subdue Henkleman and place him under arrest.
In sentencing Henkleman Wednesday, Schaller called him "the product of a broken system." Henkleman spent his youth being shuttled from different group homes to foster homes, and he was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, his attorney, Sunni Ko said. Ko added that Henkleman has a mental illness that he repeatedly tried to get help for prior to Heath's homicide.
"Perhaps if he had received the treatment that he had so desperately sought, this incident would not have happened," Ko said.
Alcohol only exacerbated Henkleman's mental illness on the night of Heath's homicide, Ko said. Henkleman's blood-alcohol level was more than three the legal limit for drunken driving when he was arrested hours after Heath's stabbing, Schaller said in court.
Henkleman stayed seated in handcuffs when asked if he wished to address the court prior to sentencing. "I am sorry but it's hard for me to express that," he said, without any discernible emotion in his voice. "I don't have any memory of the night in question...I'm sorry that he's gone."
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org