‘My family and I didn’t deserve to be violated by you’: Victims admonish serial burglar Justin Wood at his sentencing

(WSB video of Justin Wood being taken from courtroom post-sentencing)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In King County Superior Court this past hour, Judge Julie Spector has just given 25-year-old West Seattle serial burglar Justin Wood a sentence of less than 4 years under the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative law, after emotional pleas from several of his victims – and after giving him her own furious rebuke.

We published multiple reports about Wood’s crimes earlier this year. He is the burglar arrested twice in one week (one scene, at 48th/Findlay, is in the photo at right), as reported in February, at which time we learned he had confessed to numerous burglaries, and was already facing charges in a case from last fall. In August, we reported on the plea bargain that led to this afternoon’s sentencing.

Judge Spector mentioned before the hearing that she had received letters from many other victims in the two months since Wood pleaded guilty to seven burglaries as well as attempted burglary and two gun thefts. He has no felony history; the state had recommended the “high-end” sentence of about 7 years.

“This has been my case from the very beginning,” said deputy prosecuting attorney Darren Thompson. “We’re in an interesting situation because the defendant confessed to 28 residential burglaries” among other things. “Mr. Wood actually came forward… he drove around with (a detective) and showed him all the victims’ houses … to be fair, some of them would never have been solved (otherwise).”

He added that the state also left it open for the defense lawyer to request a “prison-based DOSA,” – Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative – since “Mr. Wood obviously suffered from a drug addiction when these crimes were committed.” But, “these are crimes that cannot be fixed… (if he) served the 44 months (that such a sentence would involve), it would not be enough.”

And that was clear, once the victims in the courtroom came forward to tell their stories, mostly through tears and/or anger.

The first victim to speak to the judge said he had a message directly for the criminal: “You should know that you violated my life in a very personal way. … My life has changed since the day you broke into my family’s home and you stole part of our lives. You didn’t just steal money and objects but part of our lives … Among the items … were a couple that really hurt … You stole my wedding ring. That can never be replaced. … not with the same one that I put on my finger the day I got married.” The man struggled with tears. “You stole $80 from my 7-year-old son’s wallet. Can you imagine …”

He broke down again and apologized for that to Judge Spector, who told him not to apologize. So he continued:

“Can you imagine my son, one of the happiest kids on earth … he worked really hard to save that money and was so proud … can you imagine how upset he was when I had to tell him someone broke into our house and took his money.”

Others in the courtroom were audibly crying by that point.

“An innocent boy like that who only knows the good of the world so far shouldn’t have to be introduced” that soon to its darker side. He went on: “… My family and I didn’t deserve to be violated by you. … I never used to feel unsafe in my own home,” but now he does, because “if you did, who else would? … Now I’m afraid to leave anything valuable in my house when I leave … even when I go to the corner for a few minutes. … I was only gone for one hour when you broke into my house. … What you did was shameful and had a terrible effect on me and my family.”

Next, another victim, a woman who began with the story of how he “pilfe(red) my 10-year-old daughter’s room” at the start of the burglary and rampaged through the house. “You were indiscriminate about what you took …. What you got away with is different from what you took … our sense of security … family jewelry that had been handed down for generations … my wedding ring, a symbol of 17 years of marriage … You took away a sense of optimism … and replaced it with suspicion and anger.” He even stole her daughter’s two baby teeth “that she had been saving for the Tooth Fairy … those items held no value for you but were priceless for me … (and they) probably ended up on the floor of a car or at the bottom of a trash bin.” She said she came to court “to look you in the eye … I wanted to put a face on the crime you committed against me and my family … I wanted you to see me, and understand (how your crimes affected) real people.”

The third victim to speak, another woman, cried from the start. “Despite the fact he cooperated with police once finally caught that does not (lessen) the pain and suffering … Many items are replaceable with insurance money, but many will never be replaced, like my mother’s ring that I will never be able to pass on to my daughter. He took them for money … (and) for someone to walk into a baby’s room and take a silver piggy bank full of coins …” She spoke between tears about how she and neighbors have security systems now but that is no replacement for a sense of security gone forever and called him “a threat to the West Seattle community” who needs the toughest sentence possible.

Fourth victim to speak, a man who also is a father, a 12- and 9-year-old. “My daughter came home … and found that her room was totally trashed …” His wife’s jewelry box was looted, including handed-down family heirlooms; cash was taken that his daughter had received for her birthday the day before. “The reason I’m up here is because he freaked my family out to the point where my children slept in our room for 2 months. … I wish I would have been there because he wouldn’t be here today.”

Others in the courtroom continued to sob intermittently.

“He came right into my house. Lifted up the window and came right into my house. To this day, when my kids go (to bed) … ‘Are all the doors locked, Dad? Are all the windows locked, Dad?’ My son can’t even go into the laundry room to look for his uniform because he doesn’t feel safe … I just want Justin Wood to know I grew up with nothing in my life, I grew up in the projects, I saw (lots of crime), I told myself I wasn’t going to be like that … I want him to get help. … He needs help .. and when he gets out of jail, he needs to become a better person. Can he imagine someone getting into his house, and freaking his kids out? He needs to know what we feel like.” To judge and lawyers: “It’s up to you guys, what happens to Justin Wood … I hope when he’s in jail, he can bring good into his life …”

No one else wished to speak. So next came Wood’s lawyer. She said he knows no restitution will make up for what he did. “He truly confessed to many crimes that would never … 1 or 2 of them had forensic evidence. He pleaded (guilty) with an earnest desire to take some responsibility.”

She said Wood had fallen “low” because of heroin addiction, and has already been in jail for 238 days, his longest spell of sobriety. She contended he is eligible for prison DOSA “and is going to go to prison regardless, for these crimes.” The sentence, ultimately, is longer than a regular prison sentence would be, she said, adding that he is amenable to treatment and has just never been able to get it in a controlled environment for a sustained period of time.

Wood’s parents came up to the bench. His father said his son had had trouble for a long time. His mother said, “We think this is the chance he needs to save his life …” Crying, she said, “We never thought his life would go this way.” She also said he had failed another treatment program – in her view, because “he wasn’t ready.”

Wood himself wrote a letter, it was noted, but also was offered the chance to say something. He read the short letter without emotion, facing the courtroom. “I offer no excuses for my actions …” but blamed his addiction, saying he deals with remorse and shame daily … “What is important to me is remaining sober … maybe my victims will regain a sense of peace … a sense I violated …”

Judge Spector then spoke to the court and to Wood, controlled fury rising slowly with every word: “Every Friday, judges sentence people just like you… the collateral consequences of drug addiction are in my court every Friday. The victims’ feelings of violation are an outrage …”

She criticized Wood for racing through his letter, not seeming to be sincere about what he had said. “You could not get through (the letter) more quickly … You have committed more crimes in a spree than most have in a lifetime. You’ve been in and out of treatment … Recovery involves relapse. When you relapsed, though, you didn’t just become a greater heroin addict, you took all these people’s sense of security and privacy… and dashed it so you could stick this vile poison into your life.”

She noted that many in his shoes come from troubled backgrounds but he came from an intact home, both parents still alive … And then she dropped the personal bomb: “You are what I call a mid-aged drug addict .. I hope this scares you straight: I had a brother just like you, a heroin addict just like you, in and out of treatment 8 times .. You know where he is now?”

She paused, then:

“Dead. He died of an overdose at age 34. He was considered an old junkie.”

She quoted the one victim who had said he hopes Wood finds the help he needs … “Every time you stick this poison in your arm, I’ve got ten victims … and for every 10, there’s 100 behind that … and there are 53 judges …”

She then said that if she gave him the maximum basic prison term, there would be no treatment – but if she gave him the prison-based DOSA, and he screwed up, he would do the maximum. “And that should scare you.”

The fury in her voice calmed a bit as she explained she would give him the sentence with treatment in prison, “but if you screw up, you will be an old, dry junkie when you come out.”

So, with that, Wood was given a 44 3/4-month sentence – three years, 8 3/4 months – with drug treatment to begin immediately in prison – and 44 3/4 months of community custody (probation) to follow. Judge Spector explained it to the gallery, “I am doing this because he needs the treatment, he needs the help, and in our state if you don’t commit a violent crime … (you are eligible for this).” She concluded, “It’s the only way I know how to safeguard our community.”

41 Replies to "'My family and I didn't deserve to be violated by you': Victims admonish serial burglar Justin Wood at his sentencing"

  • MB October 18, 2013 (4:29 pm)

    Well written article WSB.

  • MTHS October 18, 2013 (4:48 pm)

    Wow. Powerful stuff.

  • robesoierre October 18, 2013 (4:49 pm)

    It’s nice to finally see some real justice dispensed for a change.

  • i'mcoveredinbees October 18, 2013 (5:23 pm)

    Great coverage. Thank you.

  • alki forever October 18, 2013 (6:37 pm)

    Oh my.. How tragic for sure. But I believe that this young man has a good heart though. He needs a hug I’m sure because he’s feeling guilty for what he’s done. He’s probably not a bad man but he was a desperate soul looking for help at the time of his actions.

  • Lisa October 18, 2013 (6:43 pm)

    Brave judge!

  • cf October 18, 2013 (7:00 pm)

    Wow… I used to hang out with this guy in high school… so sad to see the path he has chosen for his life. My condolences to everyone involved in these crime sprees; victims and the Wood family alike. I hope Justin gets the help he needs – he really was a sweet guy back in the day.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 18, 2013 (7:03 pm)

    “real justice”?!?!?!?!
    “Brave judge”?!?!?!?!?!?
    He admitted to 28 BURGLARIES (only he knows how many he actually committed, likely more), and he sentenced to 44 MONTHS!!!!
    That works out to about 1.6 months for each burglary.
    Not to mention no added time for the gun crimes, and where is the out rage from the Anti 2nd Amendment groups. That is why there is a gun problem. No enforcement of crimes where guns are involved.
    So he spends 44 months in jail then heads to a “treatment” facility. He should have gotten 10 years for the burglaries, 5 years each for the gun thefts and be forced to attend drug rehab IN PRISON!!!

  • D I D October 18, 2013 (7:14 pm)

    Great courtroom reporting WSB.
    A big thank you to the victims for their personal testimony. I can only imagine how difficult this has been for you and your families.

    I am very troubled by this quote from deputy prosecuting attorney Darren Thompson;
    “Mr. Wood obviously suffered from a drug addiction when these crimes were committed.” Huh? ‘Suffered’ from a drug addiction? Hardly a good choice of words, and hopefully not the guiding philosophy behind this prosecutor as he deals with THE specific people who cause real suffering amongst the general public who are violated and made to suffer by addicts. People take drugs because they make them feel good, powerful or omnipotent. To say addicts are suffering is making them the victims for the choices they have made to ingest, smoke or inject into their bodies.

    I am relieved to see the judge saw through this criminals b.s. apology and laid him low.

  • Breezy October 18, 2013 (7:55 pm)

    I agree with Ex-Westwood Resident.
    A sentence of less than 4 years for more than 28 burglaries? I am very troubled by this comment from Mr. Thompson in regards to the burglaries Wood confessed to, ”
    to be fair, some of them would never have been solved (otherwise).”
    Uh? This is not about solving unsolved cases!
    Our family home was robbed some years ago. One of the men who broke in was caught and was sentenced to 8 years and 8 months and this was for breaking in to 6 homes. Our place was the only one where the goods were not recovered :(
    Wood’s sentencing is a joke. I feel for the families, I know exactly how they feel. Our life was changed.
    There’s no doubt in my mind Wood will steal again once he gets out …he’s just going to learn better ways to accomplish the task while in jail.

  • steve October 18, 2013 (8:05 pm)

    I applaud the victims for standing up and letting this addict have it. That is not an easy thing to do. I would be a wreck. Taking the time out of your lives to re-visit this crap takes guts. Thanks all.

  • E. Sharp October 18, 2013 (8:16 pm)

    Probably the same degenerate @$$hole that broke into my house and stole my jewelry, computer, cameras, etc. Glad he got caught and had to face several of the people whose lives were affected. Stupid selfish drug addicted POS.

  • UWPharmer October 18, 2013 (8:36 pm)

    Can anyone tell me if my letter or other victim’s letters were read to the court? I walked in on him and heard him exiting upstairs as I was holding my two small children. Unfortunately, I could not be present today.

    • WSB October 18, 2013 (8:39 pm)

      UWP – letters were not read aloud. The judge acknowledged receiving and reading many. I believe she mentioned your case – or a similar one in which he broke into a house while a person was there with small child(ren).

  • ACG October 18, 2013 (8:41 pm)

    Thank you, victims, for speaking up. I am so sorry for your losses and the trauma you all have been through.

  • OP October 18, 2013 (9:15 pm)

    Wow, well done, Judge Spector.

    You may not like the sentence based on his admissions, but the judge did the best she could under the constraints of the law and the powers bestowed upon her.

  • margaret from vashon October 18, 2013 (9:17 pm)

    We need to acknowledge that judges are always working within strict sentencing guidelines. Often we are critical of them personally when they are doing the best they can with what our legislators have given them. I would like us all to take a moment also to recognize that Judge Spector made the choice today to reveal very personal and painful information about her own family history when she was making her ruling. This is remarkable — and I think probably nearly unprecedented. She was no doubt moved to do so by reading the many, many heartfelt stories shared with the Court by victims of this defendant. What a brave woman. We are lucky to have such a person representing our community.

  • AnoherRealist October 18, 2013 (9:45 pm)

    I agree completely with Ex-Wedgwood.

    I can’t believe that’s all he got!!! The sense of security that was stolen from all of those people can’t be replaced. Once you’ve been violated in this or a similar way, you can’t go back. I suggest 20 years for that rotten bastard.

  • wsneighbor October 18, 2013 (10:01 pm)

    I have no idea whether this is the person who has stolen from our family, but we have had four robberies in the past 7 years in our seemingly safe north admiral neighborhood. These burglaries have scarred me and my family so extensively that we panic at small noises. I end up sleeping on the couch most nights because I’m certain that someone will try to rob us again, and I’m obsessed with catching someone in the act. I’ve driven around at 3 AM trying to look for suspicious trucks. As one example, our family’s video camera was stolen with many treasured videos that hadn’t yet been backed up. I just can’t express the violation felt because of these robberies. I feel intense anger toward the perpetrators, and want desperately to catch them. These are the feelings of being a robbery victim, and I hope that Justin Wood and others like him will be made to pay.

  • onceachef October 18, 2013 (10:18 pm)

    This is a very tragic and emotional case…I agree with all of the violated victims..their sense of safety and their families safety is irreplaceable, not to mention their heirlooms and their value. I also agree that just locking him up forever won’t help…I hope that he realizes he’s getting a chance, something that if he doesn’t take advantage of, he’ll be killed or die another way. As the saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him/her drink”. Let’s hope he drinks….

  • Victim #? October 18, 2013 (10:40 pm)

    Completely understand where all the victims are coming from being a recent victim. These crimes are no where near punished enough. I’m tired of the poor circumstance stories. We’re all accountable for our actions regardless of our situation. This crime is wrong and everyone knows it including the criminals. The sentencing guidelines should be very harsh. It’s not the material items that are taken away. Who cares, none of that matters. It’s the sense of security that is violated, that’s the issue. Items can be replaced, but a sense of security takes a lot longer to replace and sometimes never is fully regained. Of all the other crooks out there, who’s next to face the judge? Can’t be soon enough.

  • Gatewooddood October 18, 2013 (10:55 pm)

    I didn’t see what dates his spree covered. I was burglarized twice about 5 years ago in that neighborhood. Just curious if he gave dates?

  • Granger October 18, 2013 (11:50 pm)

    Great coverage WSB.

    • WSB October 19, 2013 (12:22 am)

      Thanks, and a big thank you to two of the victims who spoke in court today, who pinged us to make sure we knew this was happening today – would have missed it otherwise, since I hadn’t written down the exact date, and it would then have likely gone unrecorded, as no other reporters were there. – TR

  • Brenda October 19, 2013 (8:25 am)

    Dirtbag.

  • Mike October 19, 2013 (9:05 am)

    To those that feel the judge didn’t sentence this dirtbag for long enough, think about that at the next election. You vote for politicians who decide on these laws that restrict a judges ability to properly sentence criminals. I think within the restrictions of the law, this judge did what she was able to do so that he would not be right back out on the street doing this again next month.

  • phil dirt October 19, 2013 (9:17 am)

    “Not to mention no added time for the gun crimes, and where is the out rage from the Anti 2nd Amendment groups. That is why there is a gun problem. No enforcement of crimes where guns are involved.”

    The anti- Second Amendment groups seem to be more interested in disarming lawful gun owners than they are in enforcing laws aimed at criminals who steal guns. In my opinion, if not for guns in the possession of legal owners, there would be even more burglaries and street crime than there is now. I know that if I were in the burglar business, I’d feel more brazen if I knew that I would not encounter an armed resident.

  • carole October 19, 2013 (11:30 am)

    For those who think the judge was too lenient, judicial discretion is limited by state sentencing guidelines. If had been given the max under the guidelines he would have served time, no treatment, and been released with no post-release supervision (parole). This sentence gives him 48 months of prison based treatment plus 48 months post release supervision. Many people are unaware that community supervision has been eliminated for many offenses due to budget cuts. A good chunk of criminal justice funding came from car tabs, and that was lost years ago thanks to Mr. Eyman’s early initiatives. Few felonies carry community supervision penalties, and even fewer misdeaminors. If you don’t like the sentencing guidelines conact

  • carole October 19, 2013 (12:30 pm)

    Oops, lost the prior connection. For those who don’t like the sentencing guidelines contact the legislature. The legislature also controls the budget which provides (or now doesn’t) for meaningful community supervision. Judges’ hands are tied in many cases by the guidelines and by cases from the US Supreme Court (and the US Constitution).

  • Mike October 19, 2013 (1:10 pm)

    Phil Dirt, you know where criminals get their guns? Not at the store, from ‘lawful gun owners’ who are too ignorant to lock up their firearms in a proper gun safe when they break into ‘lawful gun owners’ homes and steal items.
    .
    Criminals don’t stop to think…wait…does this person have a gun, oooo oh no, I better run. You’re talking about people who are either so hopped up on drugs they’ll take a stab in the gut and still keep running, or people who already have no fear of death or repercussion from murdering another being. Honestly, you could point a gun in their face and threaten to shoot, they’d laugh.

    • WSB October 19, 2013 (1:48 pm)

      Mike’s comment reminds me of something someone else asked earlier. This sentence is comprised of “concurrent” sentences for the multiple crimes – including the gun thefts, which actually carried the longest potential term. If you are convicted of committing a crime WITH a gun, you face an extra term to be served AFTER the main term – but stealing a gun does not fall under that category, so it’s just lumped in there with everything else.

  • carole October 19, 2013 (1:22 pm)

    Oops, lost my online connection. If you don’t like the sentencing guidelines contact the legislature. The guidelines, US Supreme Court decisions and the US Constitution all limit judges. The legislature also controls the funding and classification of which offenses merit community supervision.

  • Jim P. October 19, 2013 (2:18 pm)

    “But I believe that this young man has a good heart though.”

    I respectfully disagree.

    He is a criminal and a common thug. The choices he made were his and his alone and he willfully commited dozens of crimes to further his personal ends to the cost of hundreds of other people who had done him no harm.

    “He needs a hug.”

    No, he needs a long time away from people he regards as his prey and whose property he prefers to earning his own way honestly.

    I imagine he will be out in a year or so with credit for time served and maybe a lovely certificate, suitable for framing, saying he has gone through one or another expensive “drug rehab” program in prison.

    It will come in handy for concealing the loot from his first spree once he is back out.

    Cynical? Yes, I am, but its evidence-based on a lifetime of watching such people cry crocodile tears (after intensive coaching from their lawyer on what to say, what to write and even how to dress in court) while professing great remorse over their (always the fault of something other than their own will) astounding assortment of crimes.

    If he does turn his life around, well done for him but I will be amazed if indeed he does.

  • K October 19, 2013 (2:18 pm)

    Very nice work, Judge. Nice to hear someone in his/her position standing up for others and saying it like they mean it.
    This story does make me feel a little… what is the right word? Bothered, I guess. Mainly because the crimes that were reportedly committed by this man are so much less than the crime that happened to me. Oddly, there apparently was no follow up, no investigation and the suspect in the crime against me and my property was allowed to continually harass and threaten me.
    Yes… I know what it is like to not be able to sleep at night or during the day. Yes I know what it is like to feel hugely violated. What bothers me I think, is that it seems like the people who spoke at least found the justice and relief of the person responsible being arrested yet they don’t seem to understand what a blessing that is. To at least know the person was charged. Something I have given up on. At least they got that and I hope they are thankful for that.
    I am thinking about going out of town for awhile and am having to look for a bank security box to keep my family heirlooms. They are worth pennies to others but invaluable to me. I wonder why I should live somewhere (and pay taxes) that I have to feel that my valuables are so unsafe. I guess it’s the way of the world these days.

  • K October 19, 2013 (2:55 pm)

    I tried to edit my comment but got cut off on the time allowed. It is not that the crimes against these victims are “less” than the crimes that occurred against me. What I meant to get across is that the crime against me and my property was VIOLENT AND SCARY and nothing was done. I am very, very happy that these victims/ survivors have some justice that hopefully will help them sleep at night. I am aware that I will not get that. I just hope that in this nasty situation…they can at least count their blessings and be aware that not all crime victim/crime survivors get justice (ie… good nights sleep).

  • Phil dirt October 20, 2013 (9:19 am)

    “Phil Dirt, you know where criminals get their guns? Not at the store, from ‘lawful gun owners’ who are too ignorant to lock up their firearms in a proper gun safe when they break into ‘lawful gun owners’ homes and steal items.”

    Mike, I agree with you. People who own guns should be required to have a sturdy safe to store them in. I assure that I do. That being said, In the last forty years, I have been assaulted twice on the street. The first time, I was not armed and it went very badly for me. The second time, I was armed. And, because I was armed, I’m still here on the planet today. Consequently, I am a firm believer in a citizen’s right to own a gun.

  • Elisabeth October 21, 2013 (9:04 am)

    Is there a list of the homes he robbed? I guess I would have heard if mine was one of them, right?

  • brad October 21, 2013 (6:49 pm)

    44 3/4 months for 2 gun crimes?!?!?! This is where all of you anti-Second Amendment people should be focusing your attention instead of trying to take guns away from us law-abiding, tax-paying, and hard-working citizens. He should have received AT LEAST 10 years in federal prison for stealing firearms. No wonder we have so many guns in the hands of criminals these days.

  • phil dirt October 22, 2013 (9:32 am)

    brad, I agree with you, 100%. All sorts of criminal activty would be greatly reduced if criminals were properly dealt with instead of just a slap on the wrist. I would gladly pay a lot more taxes if the money went to house criminals. Actually, much of the cost of imprisonment is because we build country club prisons. Make prison a deterent and the crime rate would show a decrease. Give these yahoos 2 hours a week outside of their 5’X7′ cell.

  • jb October 23, 2013 (10:31 pm)

    If your home was robbed, a prosecutor would have contacted you (if he admitted to breaking into your particular home). I was called when they first caught him, I was called to be given the chance to submit a written statement to be read to the accused, and I was called to be given the opportunity to participate in his sentencing hearing. I wonder if you can visit him in jail to keep the hype going, so he doesn’t lose sight of the severity. I bet in prison, he will be surrounded by so many thugs that he will lose track of what is right and wrong. He needs constant reminders like he received at his sentencing. Glad we stuck it to him

  • jj October 25, 2013 (3:40 pm)

    What about the over 300 homes that been broken into sense Justin been in jail it seem like the police don’t care about those do they get a year off doing inthing because they caught one person well maybe next year they’ll start working on though cases

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