A Seattle man was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison Friday after he pleaded guilty to robberies in Thurston, Pierce and King counties last December.
Officers throughout western Washington searched for Siosaia L.V. Fifita, 24, after he and a still unknown accomplice robbed several gas stations along the Interstate 5 corridor in the late hours of Dec. 17, and early Dec. 18, 2015.
Fifita was quickly identified after surveillance footage was released, but he wasn’t arrested until February of this year, when he was located by U.S. Marshals.
Fifita appeared before Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon on Friday and pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree robbery. The charges stem from robberies at a Chevron gas station in Thurston County, a Union 76 gas station in DuPont, and a 7-Eleven convenience store in Kent.
Two charges relating to other alleged robberies were dropped because of problems with evidence, said Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson. The state also agreed to drop firearm enhancements from the remaining robbery charges.
Jackson said the gun Fifita used during the robberies was never recovered, a second suspect was never identified, and there were some questions about the identity of the suspect in some of the robberies.
Both he and Public Defender Phil Griffith said the sentence was a joint recommendation by themselves and by attorneys in Pierce and King counties.
“He’s going to be facing some choices, some choices of whether he wants to change,” Griffith said.
Griffith added that he believes his client does have the capacity to change — and that he will do so for his children. Griffith said Fifita witnessed and suffered abuse as a child, and has some untreated mental health and chemical dependency issues.
Griffith said he hopes his client will receive treatment for those issues and become a law-abiding citizen once he is released from prison.
Lacey Police Department reported that the string of crimes began at the Lacey Target about 10 p.m. Dec. 17. Two suspects were believed to have shoplifted liquor from the store and fled the scene.
They struck again at a Chevron gasoline station at 1601 Marvin Road NE in Lacey.
One suspect, later identified as Fifita, entered the Chevron store with a shotgun and demanded money. The clerk had a hard time opening the register and Fifita is shown banging the barrel of the gun on the glass counter until it shattered, police said.
The suspects left with an undisclosed amount of money.
The next target was a Mobile station at 9410 Martin Way E. in Thurston County, according to police. Both suspects entered the store about 15 minutes after the Chevron was robbed, and the clerk asked a white male suspect to take off his mask. A suspect who appears to be Fifita is seen taking out the shotgun and asking the clerk to hand over money from the store’s safe.
As the clerk walked to the safe, the suspect hit him on the back of the head with the gun. The suspect then went behind the counter and took money from the cash register. The white male suspect climbed over the counter and took cigars, according to police.
From there, the suspects headed up I-5 to DuPont and robbed a gasoline station just before 1 a.m. They then robbed gas stations in Fife, Kent and Tukwila, police reported.
According to court documents, several people identified Fifita as the armed suspect after media outlets released security camera footage and a description of the suspect.