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Bloody Movie, Random Violence Thrilled Loukaitis, Classmates Say Student After Student Testify To Horror Of Classroom Shootings

Thu., Aug. 28, 1997, midnight

Barry Loukaitis was the kind of kid who would make up the wrong answers to math problems and pass them along to classmates who asked for help.

He bragged it would be fun to kill a lot of people and get away with it, schoolmates told a jury here Wednesday.

Loukaitis, 16, is accused of murdering three people and critically wounding a third in a Moses Lake classroom in February 1996.

Loukaitis has admitted to the shootings but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Grant County Prosecutor John Knodell called several of Loukaitis’ classmates to the witness stand Wednesday to describe the terror inside Frontier Junior High School and the kid who unleashed it.

Asked what Loukaitis was like, algebra classmate Jennie Luiten, now 17, answered: “He was always mean to me. I would always ask him for answers, because I was not very good at math. He would give me the wrong answers.”

Paul Uhl, 17, remembered Loukaitis would talk to him about guns. Shortly before the shootings, Uhl said Loukaitis asked him for ammunition - “as much as he could get.”

Loukaitis also asked where he could get a trench coat, and later told Uhl he had bought one about two weeks before the attack for more than $200.

Loukaitis, an honor student, swept into classroom No. 15 the afternoon of Feb. 2, 1996, wearing a black cowboy hat and boots, black shirt and pants, and a trench coat with the pocket cut out to conceal a rifle.

He is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, second-degree assault and 16 counts of kidnapping.

At close range, Loukaitis shot and killed classmates Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 14. He shot teacher Leona Caires in the back. She died on the floor with an eraser and Magic Marker still in her hand.

Another student, Natalie Hintz, then 13, was critically wounded.

On Wednesday, Uhl testified that he watched Fritz stagger to the rear of the classroom after he was shot and fall to the floor.

“He was clutching his chest and his stomach, walking slow. He just fell down. He fell behind my legs. At first, I thought he was just dead. Then I heard him making noises. I didn’t want him to just lie there and die,” Uhl said.

“I said, ‘Let me take him out.’ At first, Barry said no, then he said I could.”

Uhl and a teacher who had come into the room helped carry Fritz out of the classroom.

In the weeks before the shooting, Uhl remembered Loukaitis talking about the movie “Natural Born Killers.”

“It was the only movie he ever talked about. He enjoyed that movie, and he watched it a lot,” Uhl said. “He thought it was a good movie. He would quote from it, say ‘Murder is pure. People make it unpure.”’

Zachary Ufkes, 16, said he was Loukaitis’ next-door neighbor and a good friend.

He said Loukaitis loved Stephen King books and “Natural Born Killers” because of the “random acts of violence.”

Asked by prosecutor Knodell if the two talked about violence, Ufkes replied, “Every day. … He said it would be fun to go on a killing spree and try to get away with killing all these people.”

The witness said Loukaitis once told him he had a cherry bomb and would enjoy tossing it into a crowded classroom because “he’d like to see all the commotion and panic and stuff.”

Defense attorneys Michele Shaw and Michael Frost attempted to put the students’ testimony in a less-threatening light, getting them to agree that talk about guns in Moses Lake wasn’t really that unusual.

On cross-examination, all of the students said they didn’t take Loukaitis’ violent talk seriously.

For the first time in three days of testimony, Loukaitis’ stone-faced demeanor cracked slightly. He smirked when Ufkes, his former friend, testified about the two of them getting in trouble with the vice principal.

It’s been a tough trial for the jury, which has lost three members. Two jurors left the panel because of graphic testimony, with one fainting the first day. A third left because of a family emergency.

The possibility of more trouble surfaced Wednesday.

Prosecutors reported getting an anonymous call from someone claiming to have overheard one of the jurors talking about the case at a Mariners baseball game Tuesday night. The matter remains under investigation.

With only one alternate juror left, Knodell is concerned about the prospects for a mistrial.

When the trial recessed for the day Wednesday, the judge gave jurors an unusually stern warning about not talking to anyone about the case, including each other.

, DataTimes


 

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