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Man convicted in camper’s dragging death

He could be sentenced to 27 months in prison

The man accused in the bizarre dragging death of a 20-year-old college student during a camping trip last fall was convicted of second-degree manslaughter under a plea deal Monday in Pend Oreille County Superior Court.

Newman Lake resident Wendell C. Sinn Jr., 45, entered an Alford plea to the charge, meaning he doesn’t admit guilt but feels he’d be found guilty if he went to trial for the death of Jerid S. Sturman-Camyn, who was dragged more than 13 miles to his death Nov. 24 by a pickup driven by Sinn’s teenage son.

Sinn faces 21 months to 27 months in prison and will be sentenced Sept. 22. He originally faced second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges with aggravating circumstances, which could have meant life in prison if convicted.

“This is a man that is a family man. He has young children. He’s got a perfect work record. He has no criminal record at all,” said Sinn’s lawyer, Carl Oreskovich. “He was placed in a situation where he was to take the risk of going to trial where the potential exists that he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Who can take that type of risk?”

Sturman-Camyn’s mother, Koni Buell, said Sinn’s plea shows his self-defense claim is a lie.

“Wendell Sinn deserves to be punished and spend the rest of his life in prison for taking my son’s life,” she said. “In the end, we trust there will be justice at God’s hands.”

Deputies arrested Sinn after witnesses said he’d placed a noose around Sturm-Camyn’s neck and attached it to the back of his Ford F-250 pickup after the 20-year-old had threatened his son and other campers with an ax.

Sinn’s son, Justin, drove off in the truck and called 911 from his cell phone to say he’d been chased by someone with an ax. Minutes later, another camper called 911 to report someone was being dragged. Dispatchers quickly realized the calls were related.

Justin Sinn told investigators he didn’t know he’d been dragging Sturman-Camyn and hasn’t been charged in the incident.

Sturman-Camyn, who was in his first year at Eastern Washington University, was camping and drinking with his father, Jerry “Scott” Camyn, when the two engaged in a playful fight that got out of hand, according to previously published reports.

Witnesses said Sinn fired a rifle to separate the two but Sturman-Camyn pulled the gun’s muzzle to his chest and challenged Sinn to shoot him, then threatened several campers with an ax, according to investigators.

Buell said her son was angry and challenged people to fights, but he never threatened anyone.

“The prosecution could prove that,” she said. “There was some reason my son was so angry, and I don’t understand that part.”

Oreskovich said he’ll ask for a sentence of less than 21 months and plans to present several mitigating circumstances to support a lesser sentence, including Sinn’s argument that he was acting in self-defense.

Sinn, who’d been out on bail, was taken into custody Monday, as his family cried, said Tom Metzger, Pend Oreille County prosecutor.

“I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Sinn was sobbing,” Metzger said. “To call (the hearing) emotion-charged was pretty much an understatement.”

Buell called talk of finding closure “psychobabble.”

“There’ll never be closure,” Buell said. “I’ll never have my son back.”

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.

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