A Pierce County judge on Friday sentenced an unrepentant Kiyoshi Higashi, the first defendant convicted in the murder of Edgewood resident Jim Sanders, to nearly 124 years in prison.
A jury earlier this week convicted Higashi, 23, of first-degree murder, first- degree burglary, and two counts each of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault.
Prosecutors argued he was one of the main players in the home-invasion robbery of Sanders and his family April 28, 2010. Higashi and three co-defendants targeted the family after seeing a post Sanders placed on Craigslist advertising a diamond ring for sale.
The three co-defendants await trial.
Sanders, 43, and his wife, Charlene, were tied up, beaten and threatened with death. Their sons were held at gunpoint, and one of them, James Sanders Jr., was pistol-whipped.
Sanders was shot to death after he broke free of his bonds and began to fight the robbers.
His wife, mother and brother addressed Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner before Friday’s sentencing.
They all described Sanders as a good husband and father whose loss has left the family devastated. They all asked that Higashi receive the longest sentence possible.
“I’m in my own jail,” Charlene Sanders told Buckner. “Every day’s difficult without my husband.”
The victim’s brother, Derek Sanders, said he hoped Higashi one day would realize the pain he’s caused, find God and repent. Jim Sanders would offer Higashi his hand in friendship, should they meet in heaven, Sanders said.
“We truly do pray for you,” he said.
Sheriff’s detective John Jiminez, the lead investig- ator on the case, told the judge Higashi is “a monster.”
“I knew I’d seen pure evil the day I sat across the table interviewing him,” Jiminez said. “It’s my opinion, Kiyoshi Higashi has earned every second of every day he will spend in prison for the rest of his life.”
Deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett recommended the 124-year sentence. She arrived at that number by adding the high ends of the standard range for each conviction and tacking on six firearm enhancements.
“We think that’s the appropriate sentence for this defendant,” Robnett said.
In his remarks before being sentenced, Higashi did nothing to allay contentions that he is unremorseful about his role in Sanders’ death. He insulted the Sanders family, called Buckner a racist and said only God could judge him.
He also seemed to admit to killing Sanders – something he denied during the trial.
“I don’t care what sentence you give me,” he said. “Either way, I’m going to be happy. Either way, that man’s still dead, and I looked at him in the eyes and I told him, ‘I pray for the both of us,’ before I killed him. So, hopefully they’re happy about that.”
Buckner then accepted Robnett’s recommendation, and corrections officers led Higashi out of the courtroom and into a lifetime of captivity.