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Murder victim’s family says they were notified late of sentencing
POULSBO — Clara Dunker was never the same after she learned that her son, Darwin, had been murdered in his Poulsbo condo.
At 91, she was “very clear of mind,” her daughter-in-law Diann Dunker said. Because of severe arthritis in her legs, she used a motorized wheelchair, but was able to get up, move to her recliner, and basically get around her apartment on her own.
“She had her bouts of illness, but she was a fighter. She was a strong lady,” Diann said. “But after that happened, she just didn’t fight anymore. She didn’t eat anymore.”
Darwin Dunker died Feb. 21, 2012. Clara Dunker died less than two months later.
Diann Dunker, who lives in Casa Grande, Ariz., wanted to share that story at the sentencing for Casey Cutlip, who was convicted of second-degree murder in her brother-in-law’s death. “Not only did he take Darwin from us, he took her from us,” Diann said.
But Dunker family members didn’t get to make a statement at the sentencing. They received notification of the sentencing date on the day of the sentencing.
Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Pendras said a letter was mailed Dec. 17, notifying the Dunker family that the sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 27.
Diann Dunker said her daughter, Abbie, received the letter by regular mail on Dec. 27. But it was postmarked Dec. 20, nine days after Cutlip was convicted and the sentencing was scheduled.
“Abbie did get a letter in the mail but it was [in] her Friday afternoon mail so the sentencing was already over,” Diann said. “Things get hung up in holiday mailing, along with the short notice.”
County Prosecutor Russell D. Hauge said the notification of sentencing is usually sent by regular mail “that working day or the next working day.”
“What Kelly Pendras told me was the person identified as the point of contact was notified according to standard procedures,” Hauge said. “It’s our responsibility to maintain contact and inform the victim’s family. If a mistake was made, it’s our mistake. But I’m not in a position to say a mistake was made.”
Cutlip, 58, was sentenced to 17 years in prison that day. Diann Dunker attended the early part of the trial and said she would have returned to Port Orchard to read a statement about what the murder of her brother-in-law did to the family.
Contacted by the Herald on Dec. 30, Diann Dunker didn’t know that the Cutlip had been sentenced; she thought the sentencing was going to be held in January. Of the sentence, she said, “Well, we were hoping he would have been convicted of first-degree murder, only because of the fact that he intentionally went there with the intent to kill him.”
Cutlip faced 15 to 23 years in prison for killing Darwin Dunker, 74, with three pistol shots to the head. Cutlip was found guilty of second-degree murder in Kitsap County Superior Court on Dec. 11, after a 10-day jury trial.
The two had been longtime friends and both had served as officers in the Kiwanis Club; the two friends had participated in a club event earlier in the day. In addition, Cutlip was a former vice president of the North Kitsap Optimist Club.
Cutlip said he shot Dunker in Dunker’s condo after his friend made a sexual advance. He called 911 after the shooting. He initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but later changed his plea to not guilty, asserting that Dunker’s advance triggered memories of childhood sexual abuse.
“There was a mental health defense based on diminished capacity,” public defender Tina Robinson said in an earlier interview. “Part of that is due to the fact he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder from a trauma he suffered as a child, from being molested a couple of times as a young boy.”
In the prosecutor’s report on the case, Cutlip claimed that Dunker made a sexual advance toward him while they were drinking. Cutlip “snapped, went home and got his .22 cal Beretta, returned to Dunker’s apartment and shot him in the head,” according to the report.
In the earlier interview, Robinson said the shooting was “totally out of character” for Cutlip. “People know that Casey Cutlip was an upstanding man in the community. He participated in the community, he was Kiwanis president, and was friends with this person.”
She added, “He can’t comprehend how it happened.”
Diann Dunker said her brother-in-law had been friends with members of Cutlip’s family before he was friends with Cutlip. She said holiday photos he sent home often included Cutlip’s stepson and daughter in law, and her brother-in-law often talked about them.
She said her brother-in-law was born in Aberdeen, S.D., attended Northern State College there and the University of Minnesota, and was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army from 1961-64 and the U.S. Air Force from 1964-68, and retired from Montgomery Ward.
He is survived by a brother, his sister-in-law, two nieces, a nephew, 10 grandnieces and nephews.