Ty Swenson
Brandon Chaney, led away in handcuffs, following his sentencing in the 2009 Steve Bushaw murder case.

“Nightmare” ends as getaway driver sentenced in Bushaw murder

“Finally, today my family can have closure to this nightmare,” Meg Bushaw, the mother of slain 26-year-old Steve Bushaw told the court as the last of four men responsible for her son’s death was sentenced on May 10.

Brandon Chaney, 33, was sentenced to 70 months (just under six years) in prison for driving three others to and from the shooting in front of Talarico’s in the West Seattle Junction on Feb. 1, 2009. The sentence was handed down from King County Judge Joan DuBuque.

The lead homicide detective on the case, James Cooper, addressed the judge before sentencing, and said his investigation found Chaney was complicit in the plan to kill Bushaw, although he did not pull the trigger (John K. Sylve, 34, and Danny O’Neal, 30, admitted to shooting Bushaw; Bryce Huber was found guilty of masterminding the murder). The four men targeted Bushaw in retribution for the home invasion robbery of a drug dealer they thought he had orchestrated. Police never found a connection between Bushaw and the robbery.

“I understand these things as far as sentencing ranges,” Det. Cooper said, “… but I want to see him get the high end. I speak for the ones who can’t; I speak today for Steve Bushaw. I believe Mr. Chaney should receive a sentencing range someone around 120 months, 10 years; that is my opinion…”

On the night of the murder, Chaney drove the other three to Talarico’s. Huber set Bushaw up by asking to meet him at the bar. Huber met up with the victim and asked him to come outside for a cigarette. O’Neal and Sylve were waiting outside with handguns and opened fire.

Based upon his guilty plea, Chaney’s sentencing range for second degree manslaughter with a firearm enhancement was five to six years.

Chaney’s attorney opened his statements with frankness, saying, “What the hell were these people doing? By looking at … their backgrounds, none of them have ‘killer’ stamped across their forehead, but I wish we could understand how this (happened). It makes no sense, but it happened.”

His attorney then read from a letter written by Chaney to the court: “I understand that some of my actions led to Steve’s death and for that I am truly sorry. I have spent the last three years wishing that I could go back in time … and change my actions so that Steve would still be with his family and this tragedy avoided. I am the father of an 8-year-old daughter who I love very much. I can’t imagine the pain of losing my child, so I am truly remorseful for the pain I have caused the Bushaw family.”

Emotion came from both the Bushaw family and members of Chaney’s family in attendance.

When asked by Judge DuBuque if he had anything to add to the letter, Chaney said, “I just want to apologize to the Bushaw family.”

“It is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions,” DuBuque said before deciding on the higher end of Chaney’s sentence range,” and the impact this has had on (on the Bushaw family) is just striking.”

“Mr Chaney,” she said, “you are an intelligent, articulate young man … you have tremendous promise and you have a family that is depending on your support …”

She encouraged him to get his life together while in prison.

Last year, Huber was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 32 years in prison as the mastermind behind the plot to kill Bushaw. The triggermen, Sylve and O’Neal, received 20 and 15 years respectively in exchange for their second degree murder guilty pleas and willingness to testify against Huber.

In the weeks after Steve Bushaw was murdered, while his killers were still at large, there was a huge outpour of love and support for the young man taken from his people too soon.

Talarico’s Pizzeria hosted a benefit for the Bushaw family on Feb. 8, just one week after he passed away. The benefit quickly became a chance to celebrate the man’s life. He was described by friends as funny and extremely caring, a phenomenal soccer player for West Seattle High School with “the hardest shot in the Metro League,” an accomplished snowboarder, and a man who loved to be outdoors.

Jay Sherwood, one of Bushaw’s best friends, said he was the kind of guy who would leave a party early just so he could spend time with his parents. He said Bushaw, who had recently launched his career as a longshoresman, loved his family deeply and hoped to make enough money to support them into the future.

“To say that he was a great man is an understatement,” close friend Anthony Contreras said at the time. “He had a great heart and he loved people so much. I’ve never met anyone that touched people the way he did.

“There will never be another like him.”

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