Man gets 20 years for raping and killing 15-year-old girl in 1982

SPOKANE — It took more than two decades for technology and justice to catch up to Arbie Dean Williams.

On Sept. 26, 1982, a fisherman found the body of Linda Strait, 15, on the shore of the Spokane River near Plantes Ferry Park. Investigators determined that she had been raped and strangled and found a pillowcase with semen on it near her body.

After inconclusive DNA tests on the pillowcase in 1989 and 1999, Spokane County sheriff's Detective Timothy D. Hines tried again with a private crime laboratory in April 2003 and within a month a match to Williams was established.

He had been in prison since 1983, when he was arrested and convicted of kidnapping two 8-year-old girls from Trent Elementary School in Spokane Valley and raping one of them, and was within days of a parole hearing.

Initially charged with first-degree murder, Williams, 62, pleaded guilty Monday in Superior Court to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison after nearly reneging on an agreement with prosecutors.

"I don't expect them to forgive me," he said, referring to the girl's family. "I don't see how you could forgive a person like me."

Williams admitted that he "killed Miss Strait," who was attacked as she walked from home to a nearby supermarket to buy a hair perm kit and a gallon of milk, but sought to withdraw his plea after Deputy Prosecutor Kelly A. Fitzgerald began describing the attack to Judge Kathleen M. O'Connor.

He changed his mind after being told that even if he withdrew his plea, he could not rescind his confession. Before being sentenced, he said that if the death penalty applied, he still would have pleaded guilty "because I'm tired of doing time."

"Sometimes we say we are sorry for things that we do. Most people are only sorry for when they got caught," he said. "I'm not begging you for mercy. I don't deserve any mercy. I just didn't want to put her family through a jury trial for three weeks."