TACOMA — Brian Brush, 56, who gunned down Long Beach real estate agent Lisa Bonney on Bolstad beach approach in September 2009, is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison after state appellate judges on Aug. 28 rejected a long-running appeal that claimed Brush’s sentence was too harsh.
This new finding that Brush’s 1,060-month sentence — more than 88 years — is appropriate follows nearly a decade of legal maneuvering by the former policeman and Roseburg boat manufacturer. He was first sentenced by then-Superior Court Judge Michael Sullivan in 2012. After a successful appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court, Sullivan gave Brush the same sentence after a Nov. 15, 2016 trial. Brush once again appealed, and the Washington State Court of Appeals Division Two rejected his latest claims this week.
Pacific County Prosecutor Mark McClain represented the county in the original trial and in opposing Brush’s second appeal. Failing in this effort would have meant a third try at sentencing. Brush, who was Bonney’s estranged fiancé, fatally shot her on Sept. 11, 2009. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2011. Typically, first-degree murder with a firearm would draw a sentence of 25 to 31 years. However, Brush received the exceptional longer sentence due to an “aggravating factor” of “aggravated domestic violence … over a prolonged period of time.”
McClain wasn’t representing the county while the case was pending appeal the first time.
“It was unfortunate that my predecessor, Dr. Burke, chose not to appeal the other aggravating factors I had initially proven at trial because that significantly limited the evidence we could produce at trial and how it could relate to the imposition of an aggravating factor,” McClain said. Sullivan originally ruled that Brush’s long sentence was partly justified by his deliberate cruelty in repeatedly shooting Bonney at close range with a shotgun.
The judges this week, who are one tier below the state Supreme Court, ruled that Sullivan was justified in finding that Brush had engaged in aggravated domestic violence, and the weeks it went on did legally constitute a “prolonged period.” The court also rejected several other legal arguments raised by Brush’s attorney, including that Brush’s verbal abuse should have been viewed as speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“For me, our first responsibility as a prosecutor is to protect our community and in this case that meant we needed to ensure Mr. Brush is never released from prison,” McClain said. “It was really an amazing feeling to make my calls to Lisa’s family to share the good news as they, and our community, deserve closure.”
Brush can ask the Supreme Court to review the matter once more. That is his last option in a case that began Rod Run Weekend of 2009.
Look for more details about this decision in next week’s edition of the Chinook Observer.