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Lawyers weigh insanity defense


Accused killer to have mental evaluation

COLVILLE – The suspect charged with killing a Colville man last month is exploring the option of pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, a prospect that bothers the dead man’s common-law wife.

“I find that really unsatisfying,” Denise Ridley said Tuesday after the scheduled arraignment of accused killer Eric L. Booth was postponed for a mental evaluation. “He knew what he was doing. He just ruined my life.”

Booth is charged with first-degree murder, burglary and possessing a stolen firearm in connection to the July 17 killing of 63-year-old Gordon R. Feist, Ridley’s partner of 13 years.

Booth confessed to shooting Feist after attempting to rob him, and told detectives that two people helped him, according to court records. He told detectives that he and the two others “formed a plan to walk to (Feist’s) house and claim they were out of gasoline as a ruse,” but that Booth panicked and shot Feist as the older man was driving the three to go get gas, the record states.

Defense attorney Paul Wasson said it’s uncertain that Booth, 26, will use the insanity defense. But Wasson said he made the request for the evaluation at Eastern State Hospital to preserve that option.

Neighbors heard Feist’s utility vehicle hit a pole and discovered Feist bleeding from the head from what turned out to be two gunshot wounds.

Several members of Feist’s friends and family appeared in Stevens County Superior Court, including Ridley, who splits time between Colville and California, where she works as a real estate agent.

“Seeing him in court today I thought was pitiful,” Ridley said of Booth. “I felt anger, but he’s so young. How could he do that to my best friend?”

Ridley said she and Feist “were going to get married this year. We were going to go on a cruise and have his son marry us, because his son is a captain.”

Although court records did not identify the two people who allegedly helped Booth, a law enforcement official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said Booth told detectives that 27-year-old Jesse J. Fellman-Shimmin and 40-year-old Collette M. Pierce were with him during the shooting.

Fellman-Shimmin remains in custody at the Stevens County Jail on a hold from the state Department of Corrections and Pierce was in custody on drug charges, the source said. The investigation into their possible involvement in Feist’s killing remains open. And, after an incident this past weekend, Booth has been placed on suicide watch, the source said.

Law enforcement located Booth with the help of a gun found at the scene and a chance encounter by Community Corrections Officer Travis Hurst, who remembered being told that the homicide suspect likely would have a facial wound based on blood found on the windshield on the passenger side of the crashed utility vehicle.

Hurst and another corrections officer stopped at 419 Old Dominion Road on July 20 to contact Booth’s brother, who was on probation for an unrelated matter. When Eric Booth answered the door, the officers noticed the facial injuries and called Stevens County detectives.

Detectives learned that Booth had earlier met Gordon Feist and had done some work at his residence a couple weeks prior to the shooting, according to court records.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said Booth was known to have cognitive issues and agreed with his defense attorney that they should fully be explored before the case proceeds.