Killer of elderly Quincy couple could be released after sentencing review

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Adam Betancourt: Sentenced in 1997 murder of Homer and Vada Smithson.

OLYMPIA — An inmate who helped murder an elderly Quincy couple in 1997, when he was a teenager, could soon be released from prison.

Adam Betancourt is now 40 years old, but he was 16 when he and two other teenagers shot and killed Homer and Vada Smithson, 89 and 88 respectively, in their bed during a home invasion. All three youths were sentenced to life without parole, but subsequent changes in juvenile sentencing law left Betancourt with an indeterminate sentence when his case was reopened in 2015.

Homer and Vada Smithson.

The state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board now says Betancourt has become a leader in rehabilitative programs while in prison, and is unlikely to commit new crimes. Grant County Prosecutor Garth Dano opposes his release, saying Betancourt should serve 50 years from the time he was originally sentenced.

Homer Smithson was a former Peshastin orchardist and ex-president of the Blue Bird fruit cooperative; his wife Vada worked in local packing plants while raising their two children. The couple had retired to Quincy and reclaimed 80 acres of former farmland as conservation area for Columbia Basin wildlife. Their work won an award from Upper Grant Conservation District. On the night of their murders, they had recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

If set free, Betancourt plans to reside in the Spokane area. Betancourt must now submit an offender release plan for approval by the Department of Corrections, outlining his conditions for living in the community. He’s currently held at Airway Heights Corrections Center.