A 14-year-old Wallace boy has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly bludgeoning a Post Falls man to death with a baseball bat during an attempted robbery.
Jeremy Schmitz, who is being tried as an adult, faces possible life imprisonment or the death penalty if convicted. He is one of the youngest teens to be charged with first-degree murder in Kootenai County.
“I don’t remember it ever happening in this county,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes.
Schmitz’s cousin and stepfather have been charged with accessory to murder for allegedly helping hide the body of 52-year-old Melvin Evenson.
Evenson’s body was found April 16 - three weeks after his death - under a pile of moving boxes in the back of a Mazda pickup parked off Chilco Road.
Danny Eby, 18, of Wallace, was charged Monday with conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery and accessory to murder. He was arrested late Sunday after a brief car chase in the Montgomery Gulch area near Kellogg.
Schmitz’s stepfather, 44-year-old Clifford A. Hicks of Wallace, was charged Monday with accessory to murder.
Schmitz, Eby and Hicks knew Evenson and worked with him occasionally at a private workshop on Fantasy Loop Road near Rathdrum, Haynes said.
Prosecutors believe Schmitz, Eby and Hicks all went to the garage where the homicide occurred on March 25 or 26.
“It’s our allegation that Schmitz and Eby had conspired, talked about and planned robbing him of drugs and money and then went out to the garage to do that,” Haynes said.
But law enforcement officials are uncertain if anything was actually taken.
“They may have thought there was something more there than there was,” said Kootenai County sheriff’s Lt. Nile Shirley.
During a probable cause hearing Monday before Magistrate Robert Burton, authorities revealed that Evenson died from numerous blows to the head with a baseball bat. Further testimony implicated Schmitz as the individual responsible for the beating.
The boy told detectives that when Hicks walked into the garage, Evenson was lying motionless on the ground.
“Right now, the evidence supports the allegation that Mr. Hicks knew a felony had been committed, knew a murder had been committed, and took steps to conceal the evidence and hide the facts of the murder from law enforcement,” Haynes said in an interview.
Prosecutors say the suspects burned Evenson’s clothing and personal belongings, and cleaned up the shop before hiding the victim’s naked body in the bed of the pickup. It was abandoned about six miles away in a stand of trees.
Schmitz, Eby and Hicks drift between Wallace and Coeur d’Alene, Shirley said, and law enforcement officials had been looking for them for some time.
Eby has been in and out of the court system, Shirley said. The 18-year-old’s record shows a reckless driving conviction and a pending drug paraphernalia charge.
Schmitz and Hicks have no criminal records in Kootenai County.
Law enforcement authorities say they are still piecing together the facts of the case, and the investigation is continuing.
“More charges may follow,” Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas said Monday. “We will go wherever this investigation leads us.”
Schmitz’s mother, who is married to Hicks, was present Monday to watch the suspects’ first court appearance on closed-circuit TV. Declining comment, she held hands with friends and family members.
Bond was set at $500,000 for Eby and $100,000 for Hicks. No bond was allowed for Schmitz. All three are being held in the Kootenai County Jail.
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