OLYMPIA -- The state Supreme Court on Thursday granted condemned child-killer Jeremy Sagastegui his wish to die, saying his clear confession and blunt lack of remorse made the punishment especially suitable.
"If there ever was a case that justified imposition of the death penalty, this is it," the high court said in a unanimous opinion.
The court quoted Sagastegui as telling authorities: "Don't you get it? I killed. I loved it. I want to do it some more."
The state attorney general's office said he could be executed at the state penintentiary in Walla Walla this summer, by lethal injection unless he elects hanging.
The case now goes to Benton County court for a death warrant that sets the execution date. By law, the date must be between 30 days and 90 days after the trial court receives the Supreme Court's ruling.
In its mandatory review of the death sentence, the high court concluded that Sagastegui was mentally competent to waive his right to appeal or to legal counsel, and "did so voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly."
A Benton County Superior Court jury in 1996 sentenced Sagastegui, 27, to die for three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Nov. 19, 1995, slayings of Keivan Sarbacher, 3; his mother, Melissa Sarbacher, 21; and her friend, Lisa Vera-Acevado, 26, in a rural Kennewick home.
Sagastegui was baby-sitting the boy when he beat, raped, stabbed and drowned him. He shot the women, to eliminate witnesses, as they returned from a night on the town. He later said he "enjoyed it."
In a decision written by Justice Gerry Alexander, the court said: "Not only did Jeremy Sagastegui freely and voluntarily plead guilty to three counts of premeditated murder and concede the existence of two aggravating circumstances, the evidence presented to the jury overwhelmingly established that there are no circumstances that merit leniency.
"The record fully supports the trial court's findings that Sagastegui was competent and fully informed of his rights to counsel and appeal. That being the case, we must respect his (Sagastegui's) decision" to die, the high court said in upholding Benton County Superior Court Judge Carolyn A. Brown's finding.
The high court said evidence was overwhelming that Sagastegui knew what he was doing when he committed the crimes, when he admitted guilt, and when he decided not to fight the death sentence.
"I liked it. I enjoyed it," the high court quoted Sagastegui as saying.
"I did something wrong. I deserve the death penalty. ... I'm not sorry for what I did, and I don't know how to explain that, but I'm not."
The Supreme Court made its decision over the objections of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing against the execution.
There are 16 men on Washington's Death Row at the penitentiary at Walla Walla.