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Bender sentenced to life in prison for Suquamish murder

PORT ORCHARD — DuWayne James Bender wiped tears from his face with the sleeve of his county issued jail uniform Monday as Barbara Sneed’s family members and his family shared their despair.

Bender was sentenced to life in prison Monday with no chance of parole for the rape and murder of Sneed, an elderly disabled Suquamish woman. A judge also ordered him to pay restitution and submit to HIV and DNA testing.

Sneed, 65, was raped and murdered in her Fern Street home this past July. Bender plead guilty to the charges of aggravated first degree murder Dec. 21. State law and his near-nonexistent criminal history left prosecutors one punishment option — life in prison.

Kitsap Superior Court Judge Jay Roof heard from Sneed’s and Bender’s family members at the sentencing hearing.

“She had the same hopes and fears of all of us,” he said before issuing the order. “Knowing (Sneed), knowing how never answers the question why,” Roof said about the crime.

Chuck Baetz, Sneed’s brother read a statement that he hoped would shed light on the crime’s maliciousness and the victim’s malevolence.

“It would be an injustice to let him quietly go away,” Baetz said.

He went on to describe his sister who from birth faced a myriad of medical obstacles that did not keep her from leading a full life.

Sneed and her husband Johnny moved to Suquamish 29 years ago where they raised one son, John Jr. Johnny, a World War II veteran, died several years ago leaving Barbara with a modest pension. John Jr. died six years ago from an asthma attack.

Life’s tragedies did not keep Sneed from volunteering at Fishline and Helpline, composing music and writing short stories, Baetz said.

His comments then turned to Bender, who sat handcuffed and silent.

“He knew my sister all of his life,” Baetz said. “When he was a kid she hired him to mow the lawn. They exchanged hellos on the street,” he said.

Baetz then described in horrifying detail the night Sneed lost her life. The graphic details are part of a 13-page statement from Bender and other court documents that so far have been watered down in the press.

He said his sister had gone to bed and Bender waited until she was asleep to pry open the unlocked bathroom window. He then crept through the house and unlocked the front door to create an alternative escape route.

Sneed woke up to find Bender in her bedroom. When she told him to leave he cursed at her and threatened her with a knife. She fell back on her bed. To protect herself she grabbed a pillow and put it in front of her. He slashed the pillow and then stabbed Sneed in the chest.

Bender then raped her as she bled to death, Baetz said.

Bender went home, which was only a few doors down from Sneed’s house, and played with his family’s cat.

Denise Williams said if there had been any indication her son were capable of such a crime, they would have done something to stop it.

“The child we all knew was very sweet,” she said.

Williams offered tearful apology on behalf of her son to Sneed’s family. Others followed suit. His brother, father, stepfather and friends offered condolences to Sneed’s family and tearful tributes to Bender.

“DuWayne Bender is clearly not a nice guy,” Baetz said.

“He disposed of her life as if it had no value at all,” he said calling Bender evil and a vicious rapist.

“May he suffer mightily and never come out alive,” Baetz said.

Bender’s family members and friends offered their support to Bender who remained stoic during much of the testimony.

“Of all of the mistakes in my life, this one definitely takes the cake,” Bender said as he offered his apologies to Sneed’s family and appreciation to his own.

“I’m truly sorry,” he said.

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