August 1, 2011 in City, News

Crossbow killer pleads guilty to 2008 murder

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photo

During a break in his court hearing, Cole Strandberg is led back to the Spokane County Jail on Monday, Feb. 14, 2011. Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen ruled today that Cole K. Strandberg is too dangerous to leave unshackled during a hearing to determine if he is competent to stand trial for aggravated first-degree murder.
(Full-size photo)

Cole K. Strandberg has pleaded guilty to killing a Spokane woman with a crossbow in 2008.

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee has acknowledged in past hearings that Strandberg killed 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron with a crossbow on Jan. 7, 2008. However, Bugbee argued unsuccessfully to have Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen find Strandberg not guilty by reason of insanity.

Now, as part of a deal with Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla, Strandberg on Friday pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with sexual motivation while armed with a deadly weapon that is not a firearm.

Under the deal, Bugbee can ask Eitzen to sentence Strandberg to the low end of the sentencing range, which he said was between 30 and 38 years in prison.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 12, the date originally set for Strandberg’s trial.

“Sometimes things just come together,” Bugbee said of the plea agreement. “Part of the recommendation deals with on-going treatment while in the custody of” the state Department of Corrections.

However, it’s not yet clear whether Eitzen will have the authority to compel the DOC to make sure Strandberg has both a psychologist and psychiatrist overseeing his treatment.

“Despite what Eastern State Hospital says, he has a severe mental illness,” Bugbee said. “Once he has received proper medication, his demeanor has changed. He’s much safer when he’s on his meds, not only for himself but anyone who is in charge of guarding him while in custody.”

Previous testimony indicated that Strandberg has what’s known as early-onset paranoid schizophrenia in which he receives orders from an imaginary drill sergeant named Smokey Kaiser.

Witnesses also testified that a crisis call was made to Spokane Mental Health prior to the killing, which was ignored.

“I think Miss Bergeron might be alive today if Spokane Mental Health had responded to that crisis call,” Bugbee said. “It’s a terrible tragedy. It could have been prevented.”

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