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November 2, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Friday Harbor teen pleads guilty to killing mother

A 16-year-old Friday Harbor boy pleaded guilty today to killing his mother and setting fire to their home in April.

Taylor Hammel pleaded guilty to first-degree murder/domestic violence in connection with the slaying of Sharon Hammel as well as first-degree arson.

In April, San Juan County prosecutors filed the murder and arson charges in the juvenile division of Superior Court, but requested that the case be transferred to adult court. Prosecutors today withdrew their request to transfer the murder charge to adult court, according to San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall K. Gaylord.

For the murder charge, Taylor was sentenced to confinement in a juvenile facility until he turns 21, the maximum term for the juvenile conviction.

The Prosecutor’s Office and defense attorneys also requested that the court transfer the arson charge to adult court. Superior Court Judge Donald E. Eaton agreed and sentenced Taylor to an “exceptional” sentence of 31 months in state prison, to be served after he completes the murder sentence, Gaylord said.

According to a news release, Gaylord said that the combination of juvenile and adult court sentences provided an opportunity to “achieve maximum opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation” and impose a “substantial and appropriate” prison sentence.

“Transferring the case to adult court helped protect the community. Juvenile court would have to set Taylor free at age 21, and that is too soon in terms of his overall maturity and development,” Gaylord. said.

Authorities originally believed Sharon Hammel, a 49-year-old single mother, died from smoke inhalation in the April 3 fire. The town rallied around Taylor, who was 15 at the time, setting up funds for donations at local banks.

But an autopsy later revealed that Sharon Hammel had been stabbed nine times, bludgeoned and strangled, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said they believe the fire was set to cover up evidence of the slaying.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Friday Harbor, homicide, San Juan County Prosecutor's Office

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