September 24, 1996 in City

Timing May Show Teenager Plotted Killings Prosecutors Say Loukaitis Calculated Change In Class Times

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Using the same arguments presented five months ago, Grant County prosecutors Monday resumed their portrayal of Barry Loukaitis as a cold-blooded killer.

The 15-year-old is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder for a Feb. 2 shooting spree that left two students and a teacher dead.

The hearing to decide whether the Moses Lake teenager should be tried as an adult or a juvenile began in April but has been delayed by procedural battles.

Arguments resumed on Monday in Grant County Superior Court.

Prosecutors called one new witness to the stand, Frontier Junior High Principal Lisa Hanson.

To show Loukaitis planned the killings, prosecutors questioned Hanson about the school’s revised class schedule the day of the rampage.

Hanson said every class on Feb. 2 was 22 minutes shorter than normal because of cold weather.

Loukaitis stayed home that morning but walked in on his algebra class even though it wasn’t meeting at the normal time, prosecutors said.

Deputy Prosecutor Robert Schiffner argues that Loukaitis came to his math class armed and prepared to shoot at least one of his classmates, 14-year-old Manuel Vela.

“It’s important for us to show Barry didn’t just show up there. He had to make a plan” and calculate the difference between regular class times and the altered schedule, Schiffner said.

Grant County Prosecutor John Knodell said he intends to show Loukaitis is “a very angry young man who did not know any other way to deal with his anger than committing violent acts.”

Loukaitis is accused of killing Vela, 14-year-old Arnold Fritz, and algebra teacher Leona Caires. Natalie Hintz, 13, was wounded in the attack.

Superior Court Judge Michael E. Cooper of Kittitas County took charge of the hearing six weeks ago, replacing Grant County Superior Court Judge Evan Sperline.

Because Cooper is new to the case, prosecutors on Monday had to repeat some previous testimony and evidence, including a videotape made at the school after the shootings, and an interview with Loukaitis at the Moses Lake police station in which he admits to the killings.

Sperline was asked by prosecutors and Loukaitis’ attorney to step down in July because he has a social relationship with the Fritz family.

If Loukaitis is tried as an adult and convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. If tried as a juvenile, he could be released when he turns 21.

His public defender, Guillermo Romero, will argue Loukaitis did not act with premeditation. He will call four expert witnesses this week to show the teen was incapable of judging right from wrong.

The first witness today will be Julia Moore, a Seattle psychiatrist who was asked by defense attorneys to prepare a psychiatric profile on Loukaitis.

The prosecution will present rebuttal witnesses Thursday and Friday.

As during previous proceedings, Loukaitis avoided eye contact. He sat slumped in his chair next to Romero, motionless and silent.

At the end of Monday’s testimony, he stood up and hugged his father, Terry Loukaitis, who patted his son on the back before he was escorted back to jail.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: AT STAKE If Loukaitis is tried as an adult and convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. If tried as a juvenile, he could be released when he turns 21.

This sidebar appeared with the story: AT STAKE If Loukaitis is tried as an adult and convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. If tried as a juvenile, he could be released when he turns 21.


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