A decision Tuesday by appellate judges most likely ended all legal recourse for a man convicted of killing his 19-year-old employee in a brutal slaying that will forever haunt a Ferry County man who witnessed it and barely escaped with his own life.
The Division III Court of Appeals denied an argument by Cory J. Monaghan, 38, of Maple Valley, Wash., that he was not guilty by reason of insanity of first-degree murder for killing Jeremy Karavias and first-degree arson for setting fire to his uncle’s Malo, Wash., home in 2008.
“He killed and butchered that kid,” Ron Wessel said of his nephew, Monaghan. Karavias “was just an innocent kid. I think about it every day.”
Assistant Attorney General John Hillman prosecuted the case in 2010 on behalf of Ferry County officials, who requested help from the state to handle one of the county’s most heinous crimes in recent history. Monaghan currently is two years into a 34-year sentence in state prison.
Wessel, 56, said he had long suspected his nephew of suffering mental instability. Monaghan often would come to Eastern Washington to hunt, which Monaghan referred to as “killing.”
“My brother and I and relatives nicknamed him ‘Cory Kevorkian,’ ” Wessel said, alluding to Dr. Jack Kevorkian. “In high school, most kids go out on a Friday with their buddies to a dance or something. ‘Cory Kevorkian’ went on what he referred to as kill cruises.”
Deer season apparently is what brought Monaghan and Karavias to Wessel’s mobile home on a mountain north of Republic. Karavias’ parents had died of cancer, and he was working as a laborer for Monaghan to support his younger siblings.
On the day they arrived in October 2008, Wessel went out to burn wood piles.
“All the sudden … (Monaghan) was standing there on the rocks in full camouflage like G.I. Joe. I just got the sense of a predator ready to attack,” Wessel said. “I put my pistol in the back of my pants. I had never been spooked like that in my life.”
A worried Wessel called his daughters over to the home. Monaghan had a loaded assault rifle and a handgun and began reading what the family thought were passages from the Bible. He seemed uneasy when a cousin offered to unload his guns, according to court records.
Wessel’s family left the next morning, and Monaghan began reading a passage about “revenge to your enemies” from what law enforcement later told Wessel was the Koran. Monaghan and Karavias then prepared to go hunting.
They walked out of the house and Wessel said he heard them talking. “All the sudden, boom, this kid slumps backward,” Wessel said.
Wessel grabbed his phone, walked out and asked Monaghan why he just shot Karavias. Monaghan responded that Karavias had pointed a gun at him, Wessel said. Knowing that was not true, Wessel handed the 911 call to Monaghan “to keep his mind occupied.”
As Monaghan told a dispatcher that the shooting was an accident, Wessel grabbed Monaghan’s handgun, unloaded it and threw it under some furniture. When he walked back outside, Monaghan was cradling the head of Karavias, who was moaning in pain.
“I tried to forget this,” Wessel said before pausing. Monaghan “had both feet braced against the door. He started twisting his head … and his neck cracked three times. His feet twitched.” Karavias stopped moving.
Wessel again got on the 911 call, which had several interruptions, and explained everything he just saw. He turned around to see Monaghan pull out his hunting knife, take off Karavias’ shirt and roll him on his back.
At one point, Wessel said he considered shooting Monaghan but decided not to “because nobody would believe what just happened. I didn’t think this was going to turn out well for me.”
Knowing that Monaghan still had an assault rifle, Wessel made a run for his old pickup. He drove the back way off his property until he encountered Ferry County deputies and U.S. Border Patrol agents racing to the scene.
Wessel warned law enforcement that Monaghan would be able to watch their approach for almost a mile up the mountain to his home. About that same time, deputies informed Wessel that his home was on fire.
Federal agents called in a helicopter and spotted Monaghan running from the fire. They ordered the shirtless suspect to the ground and deputies took him into custody. When they arrested him, Monaghan tried to say that Karavias stabbed him in the leg and that Wessel had died in the fire.
Wessel said a state trooper later told him that investigators found several spent .223-caliber rounds outside the home. His belief is that Monaghan pumped bullets into the building after he set the fire, thinking his uncle was still inside.
Hillman, the prosecutor, said firefighters could not approach the fire because all the unspent rounds exploding. When they finally were able to search the area, only about 40 pounds of Karavias’ body remained. That issue was brought up on appeal.
“The Medical examiner couldn’t determine anything,” Hillman said. “Mr. Karavias’ body was so badly burned, all they had was a torso and a skull. They couldn’t determine whether he had been shot, strangled, stabbed or anything.”