A transient accused of killing a Spokane man last summer under the Monroe Street Bridge pleaded guilty this week to manslaughter.
Richard Humphreys, 36, was sentenced Tuesday to 78 months in prison for the July 2003 death of Larry D. Pritchett. Humphreys was given credit for 14 months already served.
Humphreys, who faced a second-degree murder charge, wrote in a court document that he did not believe he committed the crime, but that there was enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty.
The prosecution offered the reduced charges just before the case was scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday, said Spokane County Public Defender Carol Huneke, who represented Humphreys.
On July 1, 2003, Pritchett, Humphreys and two others checked out of the Union Gospel Mission and went to Riverfront Park, where they drank beer, according to court documents. After they were kicked out of the park, they went to a rocky ledge on the north side of the Spokane River under the Monroe Street Bridge.
While one of the men went to gather firewood, Humphreys and Pritchett got into a fight.
The other man at the scene, Clifford Connor, told police that Humphreys bumped into Pritchett, knocking him to the ground, court documents say. Connor said Humphreys beat Pritchett and pulled him off the edge.
After the incident, the men went back to the Union Gospel Mission, where they were denied entrance because they were intoxicated, documents say. They slept under a nearby bridge that night and soon left Spokane.
Spokane Police Detective Terry Boardman tracked Connor to Nebraska, and Humphreys and the other man to West Virginia.
“This was a pretty remarkable example of diligent, persistent detective work,” Spokane Police spokesman Dick Cottam said.
Huneke said her client believes that the fight started when he accidentally bumped into Pritchett. Pritchett then hit Humphreys’ head with a rock and the two fought until both were lying on the ledge, Huneke said. After it stopped, Humphreys wiped his face with his shirt and then noticed Pritchett had fallen.
“These were all people who were incredibly intoxicated,” Huneke said. “We think it is possible that it was an accident.”
Huneke said Pritchett’s blood-alcohol level was .34, more than four times the legal driving limit in Washington. Humphreys and the other two men likely were similarly drunk, she said.
“You could certainly imagine someone falling over the edge at that level,” Huneke said.