A Shaw Island man who pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife was sentenced on Monday, Sept. 17.
Eric A. Kulp, 45, received just under 16 years in jail and 36 months of community custody from San Juan Superior Court Judge Katie Loring. He will receive credit for time served and was also mandated to pay a total of $600 in fines.
The sentence, according to Senior Deputy San Juan County Prosecutor Teresa Barnett, was near the highest Kulp could receive, based on his criminal history.
Abigail Finney, 38, was missing for almost four months before her body was located, last April, on the Shaw Island property she shared with her husband. An autopsy showed she had been dead since November. Kulp’s whereabouts were unknown when her body was found, but eight days later, deputies detained him after a standoff in Skagit County.
Originally, Kulp pleaded not guilty to unlawful imprisonment and one count of second-degree murder for Finney’s death. Kulp, who formerly had the last name of Tubbs, changed his plea to guilty on Aug. 3, when he accepted a plea agreement, which dropped the unlawful imprisonment charge.
Barnett explained that the sentence Kulp received was recommended by the prosecution as part of the plea agreement, and also close to the maximum duration Kulp could have received if they had gone to trial and he was convicted of the original charges.
Murder in the second degree is a class A felony in Washington, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. However, the state sets sentencing lengths by an individual’s criminal history. Kulp’s clean criminal record placed him in the 123- to 220-month range, which means he could not receive more than 220 months — or about 18 years — for his charges.
“I understand that this is low. I agree that it is low, but it is the range that he had to be sentenced at [by the state],” said Barnett.
Details of the case
On Nov. 29, 2017, Finney’s mother requested deputies check on her daughter when she did not join her family as planned for Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. Kulp allegedly told a special deputy, who visited their Shaw Island residence on the day of the request, that Finney had gone to an unknown rehab facility.
According to Barnett, investigators determined that Finney died on the evening of Nov. 22 or the next morning. She said the autopsy could not determine the cause of death because the body was too decomposed and “there were no injuries we could visibly see.” However, the investigation determined she was murdered, said Barnett.
Police documents show that Finney’s regular conversations with both her mother and stepfather ended after Nov. 22. Finney’s stepfather told police he was having a phone conversation with her on Nov. 22, when the conversation was cut off; he reportedly heard Finney arguing with someone and the phone went dead.
An employee at Rosario Assisted in Anacortes, where Kulp previously worked, also showed police a text message sent from Kulp on Nov. 23, stating his wife killed herself earlier that day, despite his claim that she was in rehab on Nov. 29.
Last January, Finney’s family, having not heard from her, requested the police check on her again.
That March, Kulp told police that he had spoken to his wife and she was “doing well.”
On April 5, Finney’s body was found concealed in a minivan at her and Kulp’s home. Kulp was detained by police officers after a brief standoff in the Marblemount area of Skagit County on April 13. He was charged in San Juan Superior Court on May 18, after he was released from the hospital for self-inflicted knife wounds to his neck and abdomen during the apprehension.
At the Aug. 3 hearing, Kulp presented a statement that read “On or between Nov. 22–23, 2017. … I did assault and thereby cause the death of Abigail Jane Finney.” He was represented by Robert O’Neal of the Snohomish County public defenders’ office.
Publisher Colleen Smith contributed to this article.