Patrick Hartness admitted Friday that he robbed Harold E. Caywood outside a south Everett gas station. Caywood, who was punched in the face and knocked to the ground, died several weeks later.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner wasn't able to determine if the attack killed Caywood or if another intervening cause, including a pre-existing medical condition, was responsible for the elderly man's death.
Because the medical examiner couldn't conclusively rule on a cause of death, prosecutors don't believe they can prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Hartness is guilty of murder.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Laura Twitchell charged Hartness with first-degree robbery before Caywood died. She alleged that the crime was particularly egregious because of the victim's age.
That allegation opens the door for a lengthier sentence.
As part of his plea, Hartness on Friday agreed that he deserves more time behind bars than what is allowed under the standard sentencing range, which is 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison.
Prosecutors plan to recommend a 10-year sentence. A judge could send Hartness away for longer, up to life in prison.
Court records say Hartness, 26, targeted Caywood, a World War II veteran, in the middle of the day as the older man walked toward the entrance of a south Everett store to pay for his gasoline. Caywood was holding several hundred dollars in his hand.
Hartness grabbed Caywood's wrist and punched him in the face, court papers said. The older man was knocked to the ground. The defendant grabbed the money out of Caywood's hand and left him lying on the ground, Twitchell wrote in charging papers.
Witnesses reported that Hartness ran to a nearby fast food restaurant, where he holed up in a restroom stall. That's where he stripped out of his shirt and donned his girlfriend's tank top in an attempt to disguise his appearance, police said.
Officers cornered Hartness in the stall. Police emptied his front pocket, turning up a pair of brass knuckles, drug paraphernalia and a wad of cash. A money clip belonging to the victim also was found in the bathroom stall.
Caywood was bleeding from the head when police arrived. He said his stomach and head hurt. He was hospitalized at least twice and also admitted to a rehabilitative care center. Caywood died Oct. 4.
The Silver Lake father and grandfather was active before being attacked, his family said. He lived on his own and went out almost every day. He had worked into his 80s, retiring after his wife of 55 years died in 2002. That's when Caywood took jewelry-making classes at Everett Community College. His elaborate beading projects won blue ribbons at the Evergreen State Fair.
When he robbed Caywood, Hartness was wanted on warrants for a domestic violence assault and driving with a suspended license. Everett police also uncovered evidence linking the convicted felon to a series of burglaries and other crimes targeting older victims.
Police believe Hartness selected people in their 80s and 90s to steal their checks and credit cards. He and others then allegedly would cash the stolen checks and withdraw money using the cards.
Hartness isn't expected to face additional charges in connection with those thefts.
In most of the theft cases, the victims were unable to identify Hartness as the suspect and there isn't enough other evidence to prove the charges, Twitchell said. Hartness has agreed to pay restitution to the theft victims.
Herald writer Julie Muhlstein contributed to this story.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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