|07-28-2003, 12:13 PM||#1|
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Kickboxer given life sentence for slaying of nursing assistant
By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times ******** bureau
A professional kickboxer convicted of aggravated first-degree murder last month was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for killing a nursing assistant from Indonesia who disappeared from his Kirkland apartment in February 2001.
Hartanto Santoso's body has not been found, and that was a major factor in the state's decision not to pursue the death penalty against Kim Mason, 24. King County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Fox imposed the only sentence he could under state law — life in prison without the possibility of early release. Fox also ordered Mason to have no contact with anyone who testified against him.
Mason, in leg shackles and red prison clothes, declined to address the court before Fox delivered his sentence. Aside from a few sideways glances at his defense attorneys, Mason — who has spent more than two years in the King County Jail — stared straight ahead, his hands folded in his lap.
Defense attorney James Womack said his client will appeal. He asked the judge to release Mason on bond until the case could be heard, but Fox said no.
"The victim in this case was murdered in order to keep him from testifying (against Mason)," Fox said. "The facts here indicate Mr. Mason would be a danger if he was to be released."
On June 11 — after a 10-week trial with more than 70 witnesses and 400 pieces of evidence — the jury found Mason guilty after deliberating for less than six hours.
Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole said it was one of the toughest cases he has ever tried because there was no body, the trial was long, and a number of witnesses "were afraid to cooperate over the last two years."
Still, O'Toole said, there is no doubt about Mason's guilt.
"The evidence was so overwhelming," O'Toole said, especially Mason's "admissions to witnesses ... that the victim was dead."
Throughout the trial, Womack and co-counsel Howard Phillips argued that there was no evidence connecting Mason to the murder scene. The jury heard evidence it never should have and was told the death penalty wasn't being considered, Womack said.
Santoso, 31, a nursing assistant, told Kirkland police that Mason choked him into unconsciousness, threatened to kill him and attempted to extort $700 from him on Jan. 23, 2001. Santoso was to testify against Mason, with whom he'd had a sexual relationship, and got a no-contact order against the kickboxer. Mason was arrested on suspicion of assault but was released from jail without bail.
On Feb. 19, 2001, Mason broke into Santoso's apartment, slit his throat and stabbed him to death, the prosecution said. Mason then hid Santoso's body and drove Santoso's Mustang to the airport to make it appear that Santoso had left the country. Mason's girlfriend at the time, Marina Madrid, picked Mason up at the airport, discarded his bloody clothes and stitched a large gash in his thigh with a sewing needle and thread. Madrid, who told police Mason was watching TV with her the night Santoso was last seen, was later given immunity in exchange for her testimony against Mason.
Although Mason is being held accountable for Santoso's death, Kirkland detectives won't stop searching for the victim's body, O'Toole said.
"(Santoso's) family is Muslim, and it's very important to them to be able to put his body to rest, to get some closure," O'Toole said. "This investigation will not be over until his body is found. Unfortunately, Mr. Mason is completely and irrevocably uncooperative."
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