By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Huether, 27, stood by and watched her then-boyfriend, Kevin A. Bradfield, strangle her friend, Jennifer D. Pimentel, to death at Huether's Port Angeles home Oct. 9, 2011.
She helped him dispose of the body in woods near Hood Canal and convinced two friends to lie about the last time they saw the victim, throwing authorities off the trail of investigating Pimentel's disappearance.
She will not serve time in jail for rendering criminal assistance and two counts of tampering with a witness in connection with murder, Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor ruled Tuesday.
Huether had pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance. She was found guilty in a bench trial of the two counts of tampering with a witness.
Taylor sentenced Huether to 17 months on the three charges but gave her credit for time served in jail and on electronic home monitoring, a period that exceeded the sentence Taylor imposed by more than two months.
Taylor also ordered Huether to pay $1,300 in court costs.
Huether told Taylor she intends to appeal the witness-tampering convictions.
A restitution hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 30.
Bradfield, 23, was sentenced May 29 to 25 years for first-degree premeditated murder after entering an Alford plea to the crime, under which he does not admit guilt but acknowledges a jury would find him guilty.
Bradfield originally was charged with second-degree murder.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ann Lundwall raised the charge to first-degree premeditated murder after a corrections officer intercepted a letter from Bradfield that indicated he had “planned to murder Pimentel to prevent her from accusing Bradfield of rape,” court papers said.
Bradfield also initially said Pimentel had slipped down the stairs and broken her neck before admitting Pimentel had stopped moving and died “while he was shaking her with his hands around her neck in the residence,” according to the certificate for probable cause.
“Huether told Detective [Clay] Rife that she observed Bradfield with his hands around Pimentel's throat and heard Pimentel saying, 'Stop, you're killing me, please stop,' and 'Kendell please help me,'” according to the court document.
Taylor recalled the grisly scene as he sentenced Huether, who expressed remorse at the hearing.
“It appears to me that you stood by and watched a friend suffer a very slow and painful death at the hands of Mr. Bradfield and did absolutely nothing to help her,” Taylor said, noting that Huether also did not call 9-1-1.
“You made matters worse by actively helping to dispose of the body using your vehicle,” he said, adding that Huether also got rid of Pimentel's personal effects.
“You know right from wrong, you know truth from lies, you knew all of this was wrong and getting worse, and you made the situation worse by getting two friends to lie to police” by having them say they saw Pimentel get into a strange vehicle.
“You sidetracked police even though you knew the victim was dead and her family was out there praying and hoping she was alive,” Taylor continued.
Pimentel was disabled, as is Bradfield, Bradfield's lawyer, Loren Oakley, has said.
Huether, a mother of four, has a genetic condition that renders her eligible for Supplemental Security Income, a Social Security program for developmentally disabled adults, Port Angeles lawyer Karen Unger, representing Huether, said Tuesday.
All were friends, according to court documents.
Taylor did not take Huether's disability into consideration, saying that disability would not prevent her from knowing that what she did was criminal or would constitute “any kind of excuse for what happened.”
In addressing Taylor on Tuesday, Huether was barely audible as she sobbed while expressing remorse.
“I'm so sorry for what happened to Jennifer,” Huether said.
“I am not asking for forgiveness, because I don't deserve it,” she said.
“I lost my best friend.”
Huether said she should have done more and should have told the truth.
“I was scared,” she said.
Huether's children “really need her,” her mother, Penny Huether, told Taylor.
“She is not an evil person.”
Lundwall had argued that Huether should be sentenced to more than a year on the charges, saying Huether “went to extraordinary lengths to protect Bradfield” and ignored numerous opportunities to bring the murder to light.
But Unger reminded Taylor that her client had not been charged with murder.
As soon as Bradfield confessed to the murder, “my client was able to feel safe enough to come forward with what really happened,” Unger said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.