Politics & Government

State to pay $3 million to widow

Washington has agreed to pay $3.275 million to the family of a King County deputy who was killed by an ex-convict under supervision by the state prison system.

The widow and 4-year-old son of Deputy Steve Cox claimed the state Department of Corrections was negligent in its supervision of Raymond Porter, a drug offender who had been released from prison in August 2006 and killed Cox in December 2006.

The original $22 million claim against the state, filed a year after his death, alleged prison officials let Porter out of prison too soon. He had been serving time for drug and assault convictions and was released only four months before he killed Cox.

“Deputy Cox was a courageous and beloved officer who protected his community and we all are diminished by his loss,” DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said in a news release Thursday. “We sympathize with the loss of love, compassion, nurturing and other immeasurable qualities Steve Cox brought to his family. The Department of Corrections is deeply saddened and heartsick over the death of Deputy Cox. We hope the Cox family can begin to put part of this tragedy in the past and begin healing.”

Seattle attorney John Payne, who represented the Cox family, said Maria Cox, the deputy’s widow, “is very grateful and relieved to have this resolved and that she can put this behind her and move on.”

Steve Cox was the third of three law enforcement officers who were killed over a five-month span in 2006 by ex-convicts who were still under community supervision by the DOC.

Cox was investigating an incident at a home in south Seattle on Dec. 2, 2006 when Porter shot and killed him.

In August 2006, ex-convict Mary Rivas, who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, drove her vehicle into a patrol car driven by Seattle police officer Joselito Barber. Barber was killed.

Rivas has been released from prison only 10 days earlier. In November 2006, ex-convict Neal Kelley broadsided a car driven by off-duty Seattle police officer Mary Beth Nowak, killing both of them.

That series of deaths led then-DOC Secretary Harold Clarke to implement some changes in community supervision, including making community corrections officers visit offenders at their homes within 10 days of their release from prison. The changes also included more liberal use of arrest warrants for offenders who fail to show up for appointments, and jail time and drug treatment for violations of supervision.

Clarke left Washington for a similar job in Massachusetts a week before the Cox claim was filed.

Kate Lykins-Brown, spokeswoman for the governor’s risk management department, said Thursday that no claims have been filed against the state in connection with either of the other two officers’ deaths.

The DOC investigation into the handling of Porter’s supervision showed he repeatedly tested positive for drug use and missed appointments with his probation officer, but was not sent back to prison, as he could have been. No corrections officer ever visited Porter at his home, the report also said.

In March 2007, DOC had 748 officers assigned to supervise more than 27,000 offenders. Those numbers were cut dramatically in the 2009-11 state budget passed by the Legislature in April, so there will be fewer community corrections officers over the coming months.

Joseph Turner: 360-786-1826