Sentenced to life at age 14, Barry Massey released from prison after 28 years

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Barry Massey, who fatally stabbed a Steilacoom, Washington, store owner in the neck as a 13-year-old, has been released from prison  though he was sentenced to life in prison in the late 1980s.

At the time of his conviction, Massey was 14 and the youngest person in the United States to receive life without parole.

In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without parole for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment.

Massey, 42, won a re-sentencing hearing in 2014 and was sentenced to 25 years to life, clearing the way for possible release. Massey was the first beneficiary of a Washington law allowing such juvenile offenders to petition for release after a quarter-century.

Shirley Wang, the widow of victim Paul Wang, wrote a letter to the Pierce County Superior Court last year, describing her ongoing pain at the loss of her husband.

Wang was killed Jan. 10, 1987, after a robbery at the Steilacoom Marina.

Wang was shot with a .32 caliber pistol because he hesitated while opening his cash register. He was shot again as a bell went off as the cash register opened, according to a 1987 KIRO report. Wang was also stabbed several times.

Massey was one of two teenage boys convicted of the murder. He and another teen, Michael Harris, took cash, candy, gum, fishing poles and several lighters, according to a KIRO 7 report at the time.

Police set up roadblocks, and a police search dog caught up to one of the boys after he was stopped there. Investigators said they went back after committing the crime.

Harris was 15 years old during the killing. He is scheduled to be released in August 17.

Washington had 29 prisoners sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, according to the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

In June 2015, the sentence review board announced Massey completed a series of inmate classes about behavior, problem-solving and social skills.

He married a former corrections officer while in prison, and she was waiting at the gate when Massey was released about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.

"They've been waiting for this moment for a very, very long time, and it's hard to believe that it's finally here," Massey’s attorney, Maureen Devlin, said.

Massey was required to submit a release plan to the state Department of Corrections, including his residence. Last year, the sentence review board determined Massey is not likely to commit more crimes if set free.

"We're grateful for the board's faith in Barry," Devlin said in 2015. "It is not misplaced."

Massey apologized in a brief statement last year. There also was a passionate effort to keep him in prison, including a website with facts of the case and a description of Massey calling him a ruthless killer.

As part of his release, Massey will be on community custody supervision for three years. He cannot leave the state without written permission from a community corrections officer, cannot own a gun, must consent to home visits by the Department of Corrections, and must submit to searches of himself of his vehicle when requested by a community corrections officer.

Massey is prohibited from using mind- or mood-altering drugs, must submit to random drug tests, and may not drink alcohol. He also is required to submit a polygraph exam to verify compliance with his release plan.

Massey cannot have any contact with his victim’s family.

Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said last year he sympathized with Wang’s family, which is still dealing with its loss.

“I hope Mr. Massey uses this second chance to become a productive member of society," he said.

Information from The Associated Press and the KIRO 7 archive is included in this report.