The Spokesman-Review

Man pleads guilty in fatal March stabbing

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 30, 2009, 7:13 P.M.

A man involved in a fatal stabbing will spend six years in prison.

Joseph T. Harper, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the March death of Michael “Mickey” Lyng.

Lyng, 19, stepped into a fight between Harper and another man before Harper stabbed him March 3.

Harper was sentenced to 75 months in prison and three years of probation in a plea deal approved by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese.

Harper originally was charged with second-degree murder along with his brother, Christopher R. Harper, 28; and Robert T. Waters, 28.

Joseph Harper stabbed Lyng in the upper back, but the fatal stab wound came from a larger knife wielded by one of the co-defendants, said Harper’s public defender, Dick Sanger. Police believe that was Waters, according to court documents.

“It was a long, difficult negotiation,” Sanger said. “My client rendered substantial cooperation and assistance to the state in the investigation.”

Harper apologized to Lyng’s family after hearing emotional testimony about the slaying.

Trials for Christopher Harper and Waters on second-degree murder charges are set for Jan. 25.

Amie C. Schott, 20, who is accused of driving the Harper brothers from the scene of the crime, also is scheduled to go to trial next month on three counts of first-degree rending criminal assistance.

Schott married Christopher Harper after he was in jail and unsuccessfully asked a judge in July to lift a no-contact order between them.

Lyng was at Joseph Harper’s home at 1008 W. Spofford Ave. when he stepped into a fight between Harper and another man over allegations that Harper had hit his girlfriend.

Shortly after the fight, Lyng was at an apartment at 916 W. Augusta when he had a threatening telephone conversation with one of the defendants. The men showed up outside the apartment and a brawl ensued before Lyng was stabbed.

Detectives recovered two knives – one from underneath the Maple Street Bridge – believed to be used in the killing.

Police searched Christopher Harper’s apartment in April after Joseph Harper’s girlfriend said he “sells many pounds of marijuana,” according to a search warrant.

No drug charges have been filed against Christopher Harper, who is in jail on $750,000 bond while awaiting trial on the murder charge.

Waters’ bail has been set at $1 million.

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