Defense attorney Al Schwenker argued Thursday that murder suspect Tobias Stackhouse should be treated as a juvenile delinquent. But a citizens group said what Stackhouse really needs is a chance to hang.
Schwenker said Stackhouse, who will be 18 on Feb. 2, is being denied his constitutional rights every day he remains locked up in Pend Oreille County’s adult jail. Stackhouse and 21-year-old Jason Kukrall, both Elk-area residents, are charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 11 shooting death of Elk-area homeowner Steve Roscoe.
Roscoe, 43, was shot through the heart in his back yard after he and his wife, Debbie, came home and interrupted a burglary.
Police say Stackhouse admitted his role in that killing, as well as the Dec. 1 stabbing murder in east Spokane of 21-year-old prostitute Linda A. Guillen.
Stackhouse allegedly confessed to stabbing Guillen to death with Kukrall’s help as part of a plan to rob her.
Both defendants are believed to have fired shots at Roscoe with guns stolen from Elk-area resident Mary Foster. Foster suffered a skull fracture and amnesia in a Jan. 7 attack and robbery at her home.
Stackhouse declined to plead during his arraignment Thursday in the Roscoe murder, so Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson entered an innocent plea for him. Kristianson agreed to hear arguments Feb. 10 on Schwenker’s motion to try Stackhouse as a juvenile.
Kristianson postponed Kukrall’s arraignment until Feb. 9 so Public Defender Maryann Moreno could have more time to review police reports.
Kukrall and Stackhouse remain in jail without bail.
Their court-appointed attorneys declined Kristianson’s invitation to discuss the issue.
But Schwenker filed a lengthy document arguing that a new law unconstitutionally sends 16- and 17-year-olds to adult court if they are accused of serious, violent crimes.
County Prosecutor Tom Metzger said a King County trial judge has upheld the law.
The maximum penalty for murder in juvenile court is incarceration until age 21. In adult court, Stackhouse faces a minimum of 20 to 26 years behind bars if convicted of first-degree murder. The maximum penalty is life in prison.
Metzger estimated that Kukrall, a convicted child rapist, faces a minimum sentence of 21 to almost 29 years if convicted of first-degree murder.
The penalties aren’t severe enough in the view of about 240 people who signed a petition urging Metzger to increase the charges to aggravated murder, which carries the death penalty.
Newport-area resident Jeanie Wright, who led the petition drive with her husband, Chuck, said she was satisfied with Metzger’s explanation that he must have evidence of premeditation to file aggravated murder charges. Metzger said he is continuing to receive and review police reports, and will file stronger or additional charges if he can.
He said there have been indications that Kukrall and Stackhouse saw the Roscoes arrive and may have had time to plan the murder.
Wright said she challenged Metzger “to do his best to prove that.”
Metzger said county residents are justified in demanding stronger protection from criminals.
“It’s the challenge of the judicial system to meet that expectation,” he said, “and I think it’s fair to say the juvenile justice system hasn’t done that for a long time. Beyond any dispute, we are seeing more juveniles who are dangerous than ever before.”