A trembling, red-eyed Jason Kukrall pleaded guilty Wednesday to the Jan. 11 murder of Elk-area homeowner Steve Roscoe and agreed to testify against co-defendant Tobias Stackhouse.
Kukrall said nothing on his own behalf, but submitted a written statement that he was accepting a plea bargain “because I understand that I may be convicted if I go to trial and I wish to take advantage of the prosecutor’s offer of a mid-range sentence.”
Pend Oreille County Prosecutor Tom Metzger sweetened the deal slightly in last-minute negotiations and agreed to recommend 26 years, or 312 months, when Kukrall is sentenced on April 20. The standard sentencing range for the first-degree murder conviction is 261 to 347 months in view of Kukrall’s criminal history.
Kukrall, 21, was convicted of raping a 4-year-old boy in 1989, when he was 16.
“The evidence as I examined it was very strong,” Public Defender Maryann Moreno said after the hearing. “We also had to think about additional charges that could have been filed: premeditated or something like that.”
Moreno said she didn’t think the facts warranted an aggravated murder charge, but Kukrall “didn’t even want to risk it.” She said Kukrall also didn’t want to put the Roscoe family through a trial.
“He takes full responsibility for it,” Moreno said of the bungled burglary that cost Steve Roscoe his life.
Metzger said Roscoe, 43, died when he and his wife, Debbie came home and discovered their home had been burglarized.
He walked behind his house and was surprised by the fleeing burglars. Both Kukrall and Stackhouse shot at Roscoe, but Kukrall is believed to have fired the fatal shot, Metzger said.
Both Moreno and Metzger emphasized that the plea bargain has no connection to cases in Spokane, including the Dec. 1 murder of Linda Guillen.
No charges have been filed in that case, but authorities say both defendants have admitted involvement in the murder.
Minutes after Kukrall was sent back to the Pend Oreille County Jail, the 18-year-old Stackhouse entered Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson’s courtroom to lay the grounds for an insanity defense.
Kristianson granted Stackhouse’s request for a mental examination by a Spokane psychologist.< The judge also ordered Stackhouse to undergo two weeks of examination at Eastern State Hospital. Stackhouse’s trial was scheduled May 15.