Teen Charged With Killing Will Face Trial As An Adult Judge Rejects Defense Claim That New Law Unconstitutional
Tobias R. Stackhouse faces a minimum of 20 years in prison instead of three years in a reformatory if he is convicted of murdering an Elk-area resident during a Jan. 11 burglary.
Pend Oreille County Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson rejected numerous arguments by Stackhouse’s court-appointed attorney that the 18-year-old defendant should be tried as a juvenile.
Instead, the judge ruled Friday that Stackhouse should be tried as an adult. The homicide occurred less than a month before his 18th birthday on Feb. 2.
Co-defendant Jason V. Kukrall, 21, was to have been arraigned Friday, but Kristianson delayed the hearing until next Thursday so he could have more time to confer with Public Defender Maryann Moreno.
Stackhouse’s attorney, Al Schwenker, said Stackhouse was at least entitled to a hearing in juvenile court on the question of whether he should be transferred to adult court. He said a new state law that automatically sends 16- and 17-year-olds to adult court when they are accused of serious and violent crimes is unconstitutional.
Schwenker noted that Stackhouse would have gone to juvenile court if Prosecutor Tom Metzger had charged him with manslaughter instead of first-degree murder. The law improperly gives discretion to prosecutors and takes it away from judges, Schwenker said.
Judges should be allowed to decide which court is appropriate, based on a defendant’s mental ability and capacity for rehabilitation, Schwenker contended. He also argued the Legislature unconstitutionally included more than one subject in a single bill and showed no reason why a 16-year-old should be treated differently from someone who is a day shy of that age.
None of it stuck.
Kristianson followed the lead of three other judges around the state and ruled the Legislature knew what it was doing when it changed the rules for juveniles. Prosecutors have always had broad discretion in filing charges, and the law is full of agebased thresholds, the judge said.
Juveniles have no constitutional right to be tried in a special court and legislators probably could abolish juvenile courts if they wished, Kristianson added.
Stackhouse and Kukrall are accused of fatally shooting Elk-area homeowner Steve Roscoe, 43, in his back yard after he and his wife, Debbie, came home and discovered their home had been burglarized.
Police say the guns Stackhouse and Kukrall used were stolen four days earlier from 60-year-old Mary Foster, of Elk. Foster lives next door to Kukrall’s parents. She suffered a skull fracture and amnesia in an attack at her home Jan. 7.
Guns and other items from Foster’s home were found in Kukrall’s car and in his parents’ house.
Kukrall and Stackhouse also are suspects in the Dec. 1 stabbing death of prostitute Linda A. Guillen, 21, near Playfair Race Track in Spokane. Police say Kukrall’s fingerprints were found at the crime scene, and Stackhouse has confessed to stabbing her.
Stackhouse said he and Kukrall killed Guillen as part of a plan to rob her, according to court papers.
Both men so far have been charged only in the Roscoe killing.