North Whidbey robbery case fades to trespass
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
October 30, 2011 · Updated 6:10 AM
The case against an Oak Harbor man accused of committing a home-invasion robbery on North Whidbey last April fell apart, according to the Island County Prosecutor’s Office.
The suspect, 48-year-old Richard Weatherford, has consistently maintained that deputies nabbed the wrong guy. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said he didn’t have the evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a result, the two sides came to a plea agreement. Weatherford pleaded guilty by way of an Alford’s plea to criminal trespass in the first degree and assault in the fourth degree. An Alford’s plea means that Weatherford doesn’t admit his guilt, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to persuade a jury to convict him.
The judge agreed with the joint sentence recommendation and sentenced him to 364 days, with 273 suspended, for a total of 91 days in jail.
Weatherford was identified by a victim of the April 11 robbery. North Whidbey resident Jacob Woessner was lying in bed with a woman when two suspects broke the door down and came into the bedroom.
Both suspects were wearing red bandanas over their faces and one wore sunglasses; one man was armed with a hammer and the other had a screwdriver.
The two robbers demanded that the couple give them everything, but instead Woessner jumped up and punched one of the robbers in the face. He claimed he pulled off the robber’s bandana during a tussle and recognized him as Weatherford.
The two robbers eventually fled the residence in a Jeep Cherokee, dragging Woessner as he tried to pull one of the robbers from the passenger seat.
Ohme admitted there were a lot of problems with the case. The female victim has made herself unavailable. The second robber was never identified.
Also, Woessner didn’t call the police for an hour or two after the robbery, making it difficult for investigators to pin down the time the crime occurred.
Weatherford has two alibi witness who claimed he was watching TV and drinking coffee at the time of the robbery.
Woessner was cooperative, Ohme said, but he had previously been convicted of misdemeanor theft, which could be used to impeach him at trial.
Ohme said investigators couldn’t figure out any motive for the robbery. He said Woessner didn’t have anything to steal.
Also, Woessner busted his hand punching the robber in the face, but Weatherford didn’t appear to have injuries.
Ohme said he had pinned his hopes on DNA tests on a pair of sunglasses Weatherford allegedly left at the scene. But the results came back inconclusive.
“Based on all the problems,” Ohme said, “I didn’t think I could prove robbery beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.