October 8, 1996 in City

Accused Killer Loukaitis Enters Insanity Plea Trial Date Expected To Be Set Today After More Pretrial Motions

Associated Press

A Moses Lake teenager accused of taking his father’s guns to junior high school and fatally shooting a teacher and two classmates pleaded innocent by reason of insanity Monday.

A trial date for Barry Loukaitis was expected to be set when additional pretrial motions were heard today.

Public defender Guillermo Romero entered the plea for Loukaitis before visiting Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Jack Burchard.

Loukaitis, 15, is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault in the shootings last Feb. 2 at Frontier Junior High in Moses Lake. A third classmate was wounded.

Loukaitis, who was 14 at the time of the slayings, will be tried as an adult. Burchard said he will rule on Romero’s motion that Loukaitis be housed in a juvenile facility until the trial.

Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper of Ellensburg last month rejected defense claims that Loukaitis was temporarily mentally ill - but treatable - when he walked into an afternoon algebra class and started firing a .30-30 hunting rifle.

If he were convicted as a juvenile, state law provides that Loukaitis would be released at age 21. Cooper said he doubted whether Loukaitis could be rehabilitated sufficiently to safeguard society in that length of time.

Dressed in black, Loukaitis entered the math class armed with a rifle, two handguns and 78 rounds of ammunition. Witnesses said he shot teacher Leona Caires, and classmates Manuel Vela, Arnold Fritz and Natalie Hintz. The first three died. Hintz was seriously injured.

A psychotherapist who testified at a pre-trial hearing said Loukaitis apparently was angry at Caires for disciplining him in class and at Vela for taunting him. There was no apparent motive for the shootings of Fritz and Hintz.

Loukaitis confessed to the crimes, and Prosecutor John Knodell said after the teenager was bound over to adult court Sept. 27 that he expected an insanity plea.

Conviction in adult court on aggravated first-degree murder charges carries a mandatory sentence of death or life in prison without parole. Because of his age, Loukaitis is not eligible for the death penalty.

During a lengthy hearing to determine whether he would be tried as an adult, Romero presented mental health experts who said Loukaitis was mentally ill but could be rehabilitated with medication and therapy.

The prosecution countered with experts who testified that Loukaitis simply could not control his anger and carefully planned and carried out the slayings.

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