MONTESANO - Sentencing has been set for May 22 at Grays Harbor County Superior Court in Montesano for Sherry G. Hamm. Hamm, 59, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder and, according to Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Stu Menefee, is facing 244 months in prison. Menefee said the charge against Hamm was reduced from first-degree to second-degree murder in a plea-bargain agreement.
Hamm was charged for the killing and dismemberment of 62-year-old Kenneth Hutchison last August at the motor home they shared at a Grayland trailer park, just north of the Pacific County line. According to the Grays Harbor prosecutor, a Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office deputy was dispatched on Aug. 11 to the Roamer's Roost Trailer Park where the manager told the deputy "he believed a murder may have occurred."
A resident of the park told investigators that Hamm and Hutchison had attended a picnic the evening of Aug. 5, the last time Hutchison was seen alive. The next morning, she said Hamm came to her home and said, "I don't know what to do. I woke up this morning and Ken was foaming at the mouth. I think he must have got hold of my pills."
Hamm had been under 24-hour house arrest as a result of an assault on Hutchison's brother in March 2007 in Pacific County. She is currently serving an 18-month prison term for second-degree assault with a deadly-weapon enhancement in that case.
In the Grayland case, Hamm had asked the neighbor to help her get rid of the body but she refused. Two days later Hamm told the neighbor she "got rid of the body." Another neighbor told investigators that on Aug. 6, Hamm approached him, "asking if he would help her load a large plastic bag into her vehicle." He told the deputy "it was a dark colored plastic bag with tape all over it" and said he believed "there was a human body in the bag because when he went to help her move the bag he could feel what he believed to be a human head inside the bag."
The neighbor said he "became scared, set the bag down and left," telling Hamm the bag was too heavy for him to lift. On Aug. 5, according to the prosecutor, the victim, Hutchison, withdrew $4,500 from his bank. The money has not been found.
A search warrant was served on the motor home on Aug. 11 where Hutchison's body was found wrapped in plastic under the home. A post-morten examination revealed, according to the prosecutor, "that the arms and legs were missing and that the head had nearly been severed from the body." The pathologist determined that Hutchison died of acute Alprazolam (Xanax) intoxication "with contributory factors being generalized obesity and an enlarged heart. The manner of death was homicide."
On Aug. 14, Hamm turned herself in at the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Vancouver where she was booked on the Pacific County release violation and taken to Pacific County Jail under $1 million bail after Pacific County Superior Court Judge Michael Sullivan modified Hamm's pre-sentencing release on the assault charge. According to the prosecutor, Hamm told Clark County deputies "she had done something very bad" and that she "had killed someone" at the Roamer's Roost.
During interviews by the Grays Harbor Sheriff's Department, according to the prosecutor, Hamm told them that "on the night of his death Hutchison had taken one or two of her Xanax pills with some lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid," because he "had been having difficulties with his brother and that he often took her pills to help him sleep or calm down."
She said once Hutchison became groggy, she dissolved "what she believed to be seven or eight additional Xanax pills in the Kool-Aid" and "gave the glass to Hutchison, which he drank. She did this with the purpose of killing Hutchison," according to the prosecutor.
Hamm told officers she woke up later and found Hutchison dead on the bed and said she "could not believe what she had done." She then purchased plastic bags and tape and, using an old awning "pulled Hutchison off the bed and onto the plastic."
According to the prosecutor, "she explained that she cut off Hutchison's arms and legs because he was too heavy to move, using a butcher knife that had belonged to her father, who was a cook when he served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.
"When it became dark," the prosecutor continued, Hamm "put the arms and legs in plastic bags and discarded them in the woods behind the old recreation center in the trailer park. She admitted wrapping the body and placing it under the motor home and also admitted asking a neighbor if he would help her place the body into the trunk of her car.
"Remnants of the bags believed to contain the arms and legs were found in the woods nearby. There was evidence that animals had carried away the remains," the prosecutor's office said. Investigators also were told by Hamm that she took more than $3,000 of the money Hutchison had withdraw from the bank and left for California where she admitted spending the money. Witnesses told investigators Hamm was seen at the park on Aug. 7 and 8 in the company of her daughter. The two were seen "moving things out of the trailer," witnesses said. Hamm had $10 on her person when she was arrested in Clark County.