A couple charged with killing a Spokane man over a thrown cellphone appeared in court Thursday, where a judge sent them a lifeline in reducing their bonds but kept the amounts high enough that will likely keep them incarcerated.
David C. McLaughlin, 21, and Melinda R. Barrera, 31, both pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder before Superior Court Judge Michael Price. Neither suspect has a prior felony conviction and McLaughlin’s appointed defense attorney, Tom Krzyminski, asked Price to consider that past in his request for McLaughlin’s release.
The couple are charged with the Dec. 7 killing of Robert A. Nelson, 46, who died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Emergency crews responded to his call for help at 1328 W. Dean Ave. and found him dead with a phone cradled in his hand.
“This is a young man who has one prior misdemeanor over in Idaho in 2010. That’s it,” Krzyminski said of McLaughlin.
“I would point out that the victim was a substantially large individual” at an estimated 300 pounds. “Mr. McLaughlin is 126 pounds.”
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund said she didn’t have much information but told Price that she understood that both McLaughlin and Barrera were under a separate federal investigation.
McLaughlin “admitted going to Mr. Nelson’s apartment with a baseball bat to beat him for throwing a phone at his girlfriend,” Hedlund said.
According to court records, Barrera told detectives that she loaded the gun and “somehow my finger pulled the trigger.”
Price said the alleged crime did not fit the lack of criminal history for either suspected. He reduced Barrera’s bond to $350,000 and McLaughlin’s from $500,000 to $300,000.
“It strikes me curious … that Mr. McLaughlin has no criminal history,” Price said.
“But that doesn’t mean … he can’t jump into the deep end of the pool from the very beginning.”