A 17-year-old Spokane girl will spend 12 years in prison for two 1996 shootings, including the killing of a man she said hit her and stole her can of beer.
After a tense, draining three-hour hearing, Emily Rose Welk left court Friday prepared to spend 11-1/2 years behind bars - including 7 years for the shooting death last August of Richard Perez. The longer sentence was for shooting through a door at a man who had kicked her out of his apartment.
Edward Perez, the father of the man who was shot to death, berated a Spokane County prosecutor during the hearing, saying Welk should have been tried for murder instead of manslaughter. “She’ll do this again,” he said.
Welk’s defense attorney pleaded for leniency, calling the teenager a product of a shattered childhood and a frail youngster too immature to survive for long in an adult prison.
At one point, as a psychologist compared the “emotionally immature, vulnerable” Welk to socialite-turned-terrorist Patty Hearst, Perez stood up and shouted: “That’s absurd. She (Hearst) was kidnapped.”
He was ordered to leave the court, then allowed to return after a recess.
Perez insisted afterward that Welk had received preferential treatment because she was white and from a prosperous South Hill family, while his son, an admitted crack cocaine dealer, was black.
“If my son had been 17 and killed a 24-year-old white woman with two kids, I’m sure he’d have been tried for murder,” Perez said.
His dead son’s two boys - 2 months and 1-1/2 years old - were at the courthouse with their mother, Tavia Johnson.
Perez, who is from San Francisco, criticized Deputy Prosecutor Jon Love for choosing not to charge Welk with murder.
“He told us he thought a jury of Spokane residents would not have the sense to know that my son’s criminal past had nothing to do with this shooting,” Perez said.
Love declined to comment after the sentencing.
At another point, Perez looked at Welk seated 15 feet away and said, “I’ll follow you for the rest of your life. Every time you come up for parole, I’ll be there.”
Perez family members asked Spokane County Superior Court Judge Robert Austin to give Welk the longest possible prison sentence.
He did, but only on the manslaughter charge, giving Welk the maximum for a person who had no prior felony record, seven years.
Austin, expressing irritation with state sentencing laws, noted that manslaughter carries a shorter sentence than the first-degree assault charge Welk also faced.
On that charge, he sentenced her to 11-1/2 years in prison. The assault stemmed from a June 1996 shooting in which Welk fired a gun twice through a door at a man who shoved her out of his apartment. She told police she went there to buy marijuana.
Austin ordered that all three sentences be served concurrently instead of back-to-back.
Addressing the Perez family, Austin said: “There is no amount of time she will spend in prison that will fully satisfy you for the loss of your son’s life.”
Welk’s only comment during the sentencing was: “I’m sorry to the family of Richard. I’m sorry to my family. I’m ready to accept what the judge orders me to do.”
Before the sentence, defense attorney Carl Maxey, spent more than an hour summarizing Welk’s descent into Spokane’s drug and gang subculture.
The youngest of four children of Sheila and Richard Welk, she had a comfortable childhood until her parents’ marriage ended in a bitter divorce when Emily was 10, Maxey said.
Pointing to testimony offered by Spokane psychologist Paul Wert, who interviewed Welk several times, Maxey said: “Her parents, in fact, from that point on, were never there for her.”
Already suffering behavior disorders, the youngster drifted toward trouble without parental control, Maxey said.
“Instead of discipline, she got four cars” from her father, Maxey said.
“Instead of direction, she got apartments,” he said, again the result of her parents letting her “drift away, abandoned, an inconvenience to them.”
She attended four different high schools, but barely reached the 11th grade.
By the time she was 16, Welk had formed close ties with downtown prostitutes, drug users and other petty criminals. She had more than 25 juvenile arrests, most for traffic violations, Maxey said.
“Instead of imposing limits, her parents gave her a pager,” he said.
Welk adopted a streetwise posture of toughness, taking the name Kelli.
According to psychological tests, Welk’s emotional and personal development is “that of someone between 13 and 14 years old,” Maxey said.
Late last Aug. 12, armed with a handgun, Welk went with a girlfriend to a house on West First. Investigators say Richard Perez - who had never seen her before - took a can of beer from her and refused to give it back.
He hit her, shoving Welk against the wall with a loud thud, witnesses told police.
After Perez said he would get his girlfriend to kill her, Welk took out the 25-caliber pistol and fired - hitting the unarmed Perez in the side.
After hearing Maxey’s recitation, Austin said that he could not allow her psychological traumas to affect his sentence.
“We have two very serious crimes. And why Miss Welk did them, ultimately, is of very little importance in terms of sentencing,” Austin said.
Insisting that the charge of manslaughter instead of murder was the right course, Austin concluded by asking Perez’s relatives to soften their need for vengeance.
“She has said she’s sorry. It seems rather hollow to you, perhaps. But it has to be a start.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo