Barry Massey — who was 14 when sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 1987 killing of Steilacoom marina owner Paul Wang — walked free from a Washington state prison Tuesday.
Massey, now 42, was the first beneficiary of a state law allowing such juvenile offenders to petition for release after a quarter-century.
He was “appropriately happy and excited” as he left Monroe Corrections Center after 28 years in prison, his lawyer, Maureen Devlin, told Northwest News Network.
His wife, a former corrections officer he married while incarcerated, met him at the gates of the Monroe Corrections Center.
“They’ve been waiting for this moment for a very, very long time, and it’s hard to believe that it’s finally here,” Devlin said.
Massey was 13 when he and 15-year-old Michael Harris killed Wang. They shot him twice and stabbed him multiple times as they robbed him at his shop, taking cash, candy and fishing equipment.
The ages of the killers and the brutality of the attack brought the case wide publicity.
They were sentenced to life without parole. At the time, Massey was the youngest person in the United States to receive such a sentence.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory life sentences for juveniles. Washington state lawmakers responded two years later by allowing juvenile lifers to petition for release after 25 years behind bars.
The law presumes release unless the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board finds the individual is “more likely than not” to commit a new crime.
Washington had 29 prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles. Massey’s case was the first reviewed, and in June the board granted him conditional release.
“In his hearing, you could just see this is not the 13-year-old who killed that man,” then-board chairwoman Lynne DeLano said. “It was a brutal murder, but … this is a man who has changed his life around.”
Wang’s family has long opposed Massey’s release.
“Why should this murderer be given the chance to have something that he took away from me and my two children?” Wang’s widow, Shirley, told the state’s clemency board in 2010.
Massey’s older accomplice is scheduled to be released this August.
News Tribune staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.