Saturday, October 7, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Wife killer sentenced to more than 46 years

Seattle Times staff reporter

KENT - On the Internet dating service he used before his wife's death, he was known simply as "Freedom."

But that's what Robert Durall lost yesterday in King County Superior Court as Judge Deborah Fleck ordered him to the exceptional sentence of 46 years and eight months in prison for the murder of his wife, Carolyn.

As Durall sat weeping, Fleck called the murder a case of "aggravated domestic violence preceded by a pattern of psychological abuse."

Despite being educated, professionally successful and a church leader, Durall was typical, Fleck said, of abusers who, despite their community standing, control their partners through psychological abuse and intimidation.

Durall, who will be 43 this month, reported his 36-year-old wife missing in August 1998. He told police, his three young children, his wife's friends and family that she had "run off" from their Renton home while he was upstairs taking a shower.

But her co-workers at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Bellevue knew she was planning to divorce Durall. They were concerned when she did not show up for work and could not be reached at home.

Letters in Carolyn's desk, detailing her unhappiness with Durall, helped link him to her disappearance. He was arrested on Aug. 26, 1998, and charged with first-degree murder. A few weeks later, he took police to a wooded area two miles off Interstate 90, where Carolyn's body was buried, with the agreement that his doing so would never be revealed to a jury.

Durall's trial began in June and was marked with bizarre twists, one coming near the end when he claimed strangers had abducted his wife and forced him to accompany them to the wooded area where they buried her and made him clean up the blood in the house.

After only two hours of deliberation Aug. 7, the jury convicted Durall of first-degree murder. It was two years and one day after Durall took his wife out for dinner and drinks, and then, in their bedroom, beat her so viciously that Fleck, who has presided over many homicide trials, called photos of Carolyn Durall's body some of the most "horrific" she had ever seen.

While Durall's attorney, Don Minor, asked that Durall be sentenced within the standard range, 20 to 26 years, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Baird said Durall used the Internet to research ways to kill his wife, which showed he premeditated her death and therefore deserved an exceptional sentence.

Fleck agreed, sentencing Durall to slightly less than the 50 years Baird recommended and imposing a no-contact order that makes it illegal for Durall to contact his three children except through their guardian and the prosecutor's office.

Durall was solemn through most of the sentencing until a friend of Carolyn's showed a videotape with slides of her. There were pictures of Carolyn on horseback, in the kitchen, with her friends, family and children.

When Durall addressed the court, he emotionally told of knowing the pain of what it's like to have a family torn apart. He referred to the relationship he had with his wife as one of love and trust and noted that Carolyn wrote in a Bible she dedicated to him that he "was one of the nicest men she'd ever met."

He did not, however, take responsibility for her death, Fleck said, characterizing his demeanor - particularly during the trial - as "sniveling."

Carolyn Durall's mother, Lenore Roberts, told Durall he was a "monster" who had disgraced not only his own family, but Roberts and her husband, Jim.

The Robertses, who are in their 60s, are raising the couple's children, and while they don't regret it, it wasn't what they expected to be doing in their retirement years.

Two years ago, Roberts, on behalf of the children, filed a wrongful-death suit in King County Superior Court against Durall to obtain funds from the estate to support the children. Tuesday, a judge ordered funds from the estate to be dispersed.

But it's little compensation.

"The light has gone out of my life," Roberts told the court.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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