Trial began today in the case of two men charged with manslaughter after a homemade bomb killed a 28-year-old man outside a party north of Chattaroy last fall.
Christapher A. Harris, 20, is charged with first-degree manslaughter and James J. Crouchman, 36, is charged with second-degree manslaughter for the Nov. 6 explosion that killed Cody R. Hathaway. Both men are charged with possession and manufacture of an incendiary device.
If convicted, Harris faces 95 to 125 months in prison, Crouchman 26 to 34 months in prison.
Police say Crouchman lit the device; Harris brought the device and other homemade bombs to the party, then removed bomb-making materials from his Spokane apartment and dumped them in Idaho to avoid investigators.
Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said the hosts of the costume party, Hathaway’s sister and brother-in-law, did not invite Harris. Crouchman was told not to light the explosives but did so anyway, Nagy say.
Crouchman told police he ignited one of the devices in a poorly lighted area, then saw Hathaway emerge from the area and collapse after the explosion. Party-goers rushed to Hathaway’s assistance, although some initially thought it was a Halloween prank.
“They’re all working together trying to help Cody as he’s lying there in the driveway bleeding from his neck,” Nagy said. A MedStar helicopter was summoned, but it was too late.
“Mr. Hathaway died there lying in the driveway,” Nagy said.
Medical Examiner Sally Aiken recovered a metal fragment from Hathaway’s neck that appeared to be from a CO2 canister. Aiken believes Hathaway died when shrapnel struck the left side of his neck and severed an artery and jugular vein, according to court documents.
Crouchman’s lawyer, Chris Phelps, told jurors that “the evidence will be largely uncontested” but that it won’t support manslaughter convictions against the men. He said the devices were nothing more than fireworks – not bombs as police told witnesses.
Harris’ lawyer, James Kirkham, asked Hathaway’s sister, Miranda Mullenix, if she was concerned “when your brother was stomping out the firework.” Mullenix said she thought it was a ground flower and didn’t expect it to kill him.
The trial before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza is scheduled to last two weeks.