Gig Harbor-area woman gets 18 years for hiring man to kill her son-in-law

Staff writerFebruary 21, 2014 

Jacqueline Ray listens to her attorney argue during her sentencing hearing Friday in Pierce County Superior Court. Ray was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for arranging the murder of her son-in-law, Leon Baucham Jr.

ADAM LYNN — Staff writer

For more than an hour Friday, supporters of Jacqueline Ray sang the Gig Harbor-area woman's praises in Pierce County Superior Court.

Ray, 51, is a wonderful mother and loving wife, they said, despite her having hired a hit man to kill her son-in-law, Leon Baucham Jr..

For decades, the respiratory therapist volunteered her time with both the Girl and Boy Scouts, fed the homeless and served on the local search-and-rescue team.

If anyone deserved the court's mercy, it was Ray, said her lawyer, her former pastor, her husband and daughter.

"I ask for mercy, your honor. I ask for grace," said the Rev. Edmond Holle Plaehn, who was Ray's pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Tacoma. "I ask for the lightest sentence possible."

Judge Stanley Rumbaugh was not in a merciful mood.

Rumbaugh acknowledged Ray's past contributions to her family and the community but said her actions during the summer of 2012 were not deserving of leniency.

"Where was mercy when Leon Baucham lay dying on Jackie Ray's doorstep?" Rumbaugh said. "There was no mercy for Leon Baucham."

The judge sentenced Ray, who pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder, to 18 years, four months in prison. That sentence was five years short of the high end of the standard range but 13 years more than Ray's attorney, Bryan Hershman, had asked for.

Prosecutors contended Ray paid Luis Barker $12,000 to kill her son-in-law, then lured Baucham to her house on July 11, 2012. Barker was waiting and shot Baucham, 34, to death before dumping his body in a remote area near her house.

When the plot eventually unraveled, Ray told detectives she was trying to protect her daughter from Baucham, whom she said was physically abusive.

Hershman reiterated those claims Friday, saying his client feared Baucham might kill her daughter.

"This is not some irrational person," Hershman said. "It is a mother worried about the salvation of her daughter."

Baucham's wife, Umeko Baucham, testified Friday that she'd loved her husband very much but that he was abusive.

Her mother made "a horrible choice," Umeko Baucham said, but she is not an evil person.

"She was trying to protect me," she said. "I love her very much."

At a hearing in January, relatives of Baucham said they saw no history or pattern of abuse within the couple's relationship, only an isolated incident where Baucham hit his wife after learning she might be having an affair.

Baucham was a doting father and loved his wife, they said.

They also criticized the charging decision made by Pierce County prosecutors. Bauchaum's family believes Ray should have been charged with first-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

On Friday, Ray apologized for what she'd done and said she prayed every night that Baucham's family might find peace. She also asked for forgiveness.

"It's so sad, and nobody wins," she said. "There is too much pain and too much suffering."

Rumbaugh had the final word.

"Ms. Ray, this court believes beyond any doubt that you were the instigator of this deadly scheme and are just as much a murderer as Mr. Barker," he said. "You listened as Mr. Baucham was shot, brutalized and begged for his life as he lay dying on your doorstep."


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