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Deadlock Ends Trial In Murder Prosecutors To Retry Girl, 16 In Deaths Of Adoptive Parents

Wed., Jan. 21, 1998

The murder trial of a Walla Walla teenager charged in the slayings of her adoptive parents ended in a mistrial Tuesday.

Jurors told the judge they were unable to reach a verdict in the trial of Starr Lake, 16.

Prosecutors said they will retry the case.

“They gave it their honest effort,” Walla Walla County Prosecutor Jim Nagle said of the jurors, who deliberated some 30 hours. “It was a difficult case to work on.”

It is not clear where the second trial will occur, Nagle said.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Robert Zagelow had ordered the trial moved to nearby Benton County because of extensive pretrial news coverage in Walla Walla County.

Nagle could not say if he will make changes in presenting the case a second time.

“Every jury is different. Every trial is different. I have no idea,” Nagle said.

Nagle said he was told that the jury deadlocked in a vote of nine to acquit Lake and three to convict.

Defense lawyer Michael de Grasse declined to comment.

Lake was charged with second-degree murder, accused of plotting the shooting deaths of Lester Leroy Lake, 66, and Velma Jean Lake, 64, last July. The Lakes were the defendant’s grandparents as well as her adoptive parents.

Her former boyfriend has confessed to being the triggerman.

Prosecutors contended Starr Lake plotted the killings to escape the victims’ control and to get a piece of their estate. Lake denied any part in the shootings.

The jury had said it was deadlocked Friday, but Zagelow ordered the panel to resume deliberations Tuesday. The case went to the jury Jan. 13.

The Lakes were shot multiple times in their Walla Walla home last July 24. The former boyfriend, Michael Jansen, 17, admitted last fall that he killed the couple, pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.

He testified that Lake initiated “Operation Potato Head,” the plot to kill her adoptive parents. Lake apparently referred to them as the “potato heads.”



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