Idaho man pleads guilty to murdering neighbor with hammer
A North Idaho man who bludgeoned four people with a hammer in a brutal murder in Bayview last year has pleaded guilty.
Larry Ward Cragun, 32, faces a mandatory life sentence with possible eligibility for parole after 10 years when he’s sentenced in May, Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Friday.
McHugh said he’ll recommend Cragun serve 40 years before he’s eligible for parole.
Cragun, who has a history of mental illness, murdered Patricia A. Heath, 43, on Dec. 19, 2010, in an attack in her mobile home in Bayview. Cragun lived in a trailer about 75 feet away and was involved in an ongoing dispute with the family that included bizarre harassment claims by Cragun that authorities said were unfounded.
The assault also injured Heath’s husband, Michael L. Heath, and their son, Jedidiah M. Heath, and left her mother-in-law, Lorraine Y. Wallis, with a critical head injury and ongoing medical issues.
Cragun was found mentally competent to stand trial after undergoing treatment. A plea deal was reached Thursday after a three-hour mediation session with District Judge Jeff Brudie of Lewiston, McHugh said.
Cragun pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery. He remains in custody at the Kootenai County Jail.
First District Judge Benjamin Simpson set sentencing for May 14 at 9 a.m.
The hammer attack occurred after weeks of disputes, including an unfounded allegation that the family was placing pubic hair in Cragun’s food, police said. Neighbors said Cragun posted fliers in Bayview, located in north Kootenai County along Lake Pend Oreille, warning that the government was invading his mind.
The family was watching television the day of the murder when Cragun burst into the home carrying a large kitchen knife and a hammer, called them a profane name, then attacked. Patricia Heath was pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center the next day. Wallis has undergone several surgeries on her skull and is visited daily by nurses and therapists. Her son is paid by a Coeur d’Alene nonprofit organization to be his mother’s caretaker.
After the attack, Cragun went to nearby businesses and claimed to have killed four people. He was arrested in a nearby parking lot.
Cragun has previous convictions for drug possession, domestic violence assault, attempting to elude police, drunken driving and battery.