Crime

Thurston County man to serve time for setting wife on fire

A Thurston County man was sentenced Tuesday to six years and seven months in prison after he pleaded guilty to pouring lighter fluid on his wife’s legs and igniting it in 2011.

In March of 2012, Duane M. Rader was found guilty of first-degree arson, felony harassment, unlawful imprisonment and fourth-degree assault and sentenced to 10 years in prison, with the court acquitting him of first-degree attempted murder charges.

But the sentence was overturned by the Washington State Court of Appeals in January of this year because the court improperly calculated his offender score during the original trial.

At a court appearance Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to the same charges — first-degree arson, felony harassment, unlawful imprisonment and fourth-degree assault – in addition to three charges of violating a no-contact order.

The main charges stem from a Feb. 13, 2011, assault that left Rader’s wife with seconddegree burns on her legs. She initially told Thurston County Sheriff’s deputies that she was trying to refill her lighter and accidentally lit her legs on fire, according to charging documents. The deputies didn’t arrest Rader at the time because they weren’t sure what had happened.

The woman repeated the story later that month.

But on Aug. 2, 2011, the woman contacted deputies again and told them that she had separated from Rader and wanted to tell the truth about what happened in February, according to court papers.

She told deputies that Rader had been drinking heavily and slammed her head on the kitchen counter, knocking her to the floor. He then poured lighter fluid on her legs and tossed a match on them, according to court papers. The incident took place in front of her 11-year-old daughter. She said Rader told her not to tell deputies what had happened because he would go to jail and lose his Army career.

Rader was later arrested.

At the Tuesday hearing, Thurston County deputy prosecuting attorney Craig Juris told Judge Anne Hirsch that the victim didn’t want to appear in court or be part of another trial.

“It is in her best interest and in her daughter’s best interest that this not go to trial again,” Juris said.

Rader was later charged with three counts of violating a no-contact order after calling his wife from the Thurston County Jail three times before the trial.

He has been at Airway Heights Corrections Center since the 2011 trial. His attorney, Patrick O’Connor, said Rader has been working to earn a college degree and better himself.

“I think it shows some dedication on his side to make some changes so he doesn’t find himself in this situation again,” O’Connor said.

He explained that Rader served in the Army for 15 years and completed three overseas tours. The experience left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he “self-medicated” with alcohol, O’Connor said.

But Hirsch argued that post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t an excuse for committing violent crimes.

“Although that was an awful experience for you, I don’t believe that PTSD causes domestic violence,” Hirsch said.

Hirsch decided to accept the sentencing recommendation of 6 years, seven months in prison for the first-degree arson charge, which is outside of the standard sentencing range of five years, one month. She awarded the exceptional sentence because the victim’s child was present during the incident.

“I can see that what you did was terrifying and awful for your victim and the child that was present,” Hirsch said.

Rader was also sentenced to one year and nine months for felony harassment and unlawful imprisonment, and one year for fourth-degree assault and the three violating a no-contact order charges. He will serve the sentences concurrent with the first-degree arson sentence.

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