Family asks why execution didn't happen for 17 years

WALLA WALLA - Nearly two decades after Holly Washa was raped, tortured and murdered by an Oregon convict who had skipped out on his parole, her family is satisfied that the killer has been put to death, but they question why it took so long.

Cal Coburn Brown, 52, spent nearly 17 years on death row before he was executed early Friday by lethal injection for killing Washa in 1991.

As the state’s first execution since 2001, Brown’s death served as a reminder that Washington remains an active capital punishment state. The use of a new single-drug method went smoothly, likely clearing the way for more executions soon. Seven men sit on Washington’s death row.

“It’s been so long we had to deal with all of this,” said Becky Washa, the victim’s sister, of Sioux Falls, S.D. “Now it’s finally over. I don’t have to think about him any more.”

John Washa, the victim’s father, recalled Charles Starkweather, who killed 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming during a twomonth period in 1957-58. He was executed five months after his capture in 1959.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who witnessed the execution with the family, said Brown’s death was quick, painless and heavily litigated.

“And it stands in stark contrast to the death he handed Holly Washa,” he said. “By any measure, 17 years of appeals is too much.”

Brown was pronounced dead at 12:56 a.m., after a four-member team sent a dose of sodium thiopental through the plastic tubes leading into Washington State Penitentiary’s execution chamber.

In a lengthy statement, Brown did not apologize to Washa’s family but said he understood their enmity for him. He said he forgave that hatred and hoped the execution would give them closure.