Tentative deal could free woman convicted in 2000 attack by end of week

krodine@idahostatesman.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Sarah Pearce.

A deal has been struck that is expected to free Sarah Pearce by the end of the week, defense attorney Scott Fouser said. Approved by prosecutors, the defense and Pearce's family, the deal must still be formalized and approved by a judge. In the meantime, Pearce will be held in a Treasure Valley jail, he said.

Fouser could not reveal details of the deal but said Pearce will not have to profess any guilt and wouldn't have to serve any more time in prison. She might be required to spend time on probation, he said.

Tuesday's hearing was initially a routine motion hearing in Canyon County 3rd District Court on Pearce's post-conviction relief case before prosecutors offered the deal. Proceedings have wrapped up for the day; attorneys for both sides will now draft the deal in writing. No date was set Tuesday for when they would return to the judge.

Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Porter said the deal is not in regards to Pearce's guilt or innocence, but rather her sentence. It is unknown whether Pearce will still seek a new trial.

"The issue of innocence is not before the court," Porter said.

Pearce was one of four people found guilty of assaulting Washington resident Linda LeBrane in June 2000 as she passed through Idaho on her way to a family cabin in Utah. LeBrane was forced off the freeway, robbed, stabbed and beaten with a baseball bat. Her attackers set her car on fire on a secluded farm road west of Caldwell and left her for dead.

Suspects Pearce, John Wurdemann and Jeremy Sanchez were convicted of multiple charges connected to the attack. A fourth defendant, Kenneth Wurdemann - John's brother - pleaded guilty to robbery and aggravated assault. Kenneth Wurdemann was sentenced to up to 13 years in prison and was paroled in 2012. John Wurdemann and Sanchez are serving multiple life sentences. Pearce, convicted in 2003, was given 15 years to life in prison for her role.

Pearce's mother, Anita Brown of Homedale, said the prospect of having her daughter home again is "wonderful." Pearce was 19 when she was sentenced, and is now 31.

"I feel very blessed that things have gotten as far as they have," Brown said.

The Idaho Innocence Project has worked on Pearce's case since 2007, putting hundreds of hours into it, said Greg Hampikian, head of the group. It's one of two cases the group kept after losing key federal funding last year.

"It's remarkably time-intensive to unbake a cake," Hampikian said. "It's much better to get it right the first time."

The Idaho Innocence Project and Pearce's lawyers have argued LeBrane mistakenly identified Pearce as one of her attackers, pointing to inconsistencies in LeBrane's description of who attacked her. The group has identified another suspect in the case, Hampikian said, though it's not clear whether that work could lead to charges against that person.

Return to IdahoStatesman.com for updates to this story today as they become available.

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