Gig Harbor man gets 40 years in beating death of his girlfriend

William Barry Selley stood before a packed Pierce County courtroom Friday and tried again to blame the excruciating death of his live-in girlfriend on her drunken clumsiness and unwillingness to go to the hospital after she was badly hurt in September 2012.

Detectives, prosecutors, a jury and Kathryn Southward’s relatives all got it wrong, Selley said.

He said he did not beat Southward, 29, so severely that he inflicted injuries medical experts likened to those suffered by someone who was in a high-speed car crash or fell off a roof.

“I loved her,” Selley said. “And she loved me. I don’t deserve this.”

Superior Court Judge Edmund Murphy listened patiently until it was his turn to speak. He wasn’t sympathetic.

Murphy told Selley, 43, of Gig Harbor, that he was in denial.

“What I heard and saw was fingers being pointed at everyone but yourself,” Murphy said of the defendant’s statements in court. “And if you want to look for what happened to Kate and an explanation and a reason, you need to look in the mirror.”

The judge then sentenced Selley to 40 years in prison, more than twice the high end of the standard range.

Deputy prosecutors Lori Kooiman and John Macejunas had requested the exceptional sentence after jurors found Southward’s death was part of a pattern of abuse, an aggravating factor that allowed them to seek a sentence higher than the standard range.

The prosecutors presented evidence that Selley had beaten Southward on at least three other occasions.

Selley shook his head slightly after Murphy handed down the sentence.

A jury in December convicted Selley of second-degree murder in Southward’s death. Jurors believed the prosecution’s assertions that he beat Southward savagely after a night out drinking and then let the badly injured woman languish in their home for three days before summoning help.

Southward, who went by Kate, died after eight days in the hospital.

Selley contended Southward suffered her injuries after falling repeatedly after a night of heavy drinking. He said he didn’t summon help sooner because Southward said she didn’t want to go to the hospital.

His attorney, Barbara Corey, argued Friday for a new trial, saying the evidence was insufficient to convict Selley and that prosecutors had committed misconduct during the initial seven-week trial. Murphy rejected those requests.

Kooiman then asked for the 40-year sentence, saying Southward died a horrible and painful death.

When Kooiman finished, the victim’s mother, Jill Southward, came forward to address Murphy.

She talked of a daughter who loved the outdoors, and, maybe more than anything else, music. She recounted how friends and relatives played music in Southward’s hospital room after the decision was made to remove her from life support.

“She was the music in our lives,” Jill Southward said. “She was our song.”

Southward’s sister, Susan Erickson, spoke next. She did not try to conceal her anger or hurt, calling Selley “a parasite who sucked the life out of my family.”

Southward’s relatives worried that she was in an abusive relationship and did what they could to try to help her out of it, Erikson said, but Selley continued to maintain control over her.

“I will never ever forgive him,” Erikson shouted at one point.

Corey then spoke on her client’s behalf.

She pointed out that he had no criminal record prior to his arrest in Southward’s death. She argued the evidence that he serially abused Southward was thin. She said her client loved Southward and was making plans to propose marriage to her.

“Barry and Kate had a loving relationship,” said Corey, who asked for a standard-range sentence of 18 years, four months. “They were a happy couple.”

Selley then had his say.

“I’m saddened by the fact that all of us have lost Kate,” he said. “But I did not do this to her, and now I’m going to be sent to prison for something I did not do.”

Murphy went last.

He pointed out that Southward was a classic victim of domestic violence. She suffered in silence and continued to return to the man who abused her, the judge said.

The evidence showed Selley was counting on her silence right up until the end, Murphy added.

“You’ve got to wonder why medical assistance wasn’t obtained earlier,” the judge said. “I strongly believe that the evidence shows that he thought he could ride this out and things would be as they had been before.”