A 10-year-old Colville boy pleaded guilty today to conspiring to kill a classmate and tampering with a witness.
The boy was one of two fifth-graders arrested Feb. 7 after school officials discovered the boys trying to sneak a gun and a knife into their school as part of a plan to kill fellow classmates.
The 10-year-old’s attorney, Helen Hokom, stood up at a routine status conference today and announced that her client had decided to plead as charged, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.
Superior Court Judge Al Nielson questioned the boy carefully, Rasmussen said. During questioning, the boy said he and his 11-year-old classmate at Fort Colville Elementary School were going to kill a girl in their class.
A status conference has been set for April 15 for the 11-year-old, who faces the same charges, Rasmussen said.
The boys were arrested after another student saw one of them playing with a knife on the school bus. Once alerted, school officials separated the boys and found a .45 caliber pistol inside the 10-year-old’s backpack.
On March 29, Judge Nielson ruled that prosecutors had shown enough evidence to overcome state law, which presumes that any child aged 8-12 does not have the mental capacity to form the intent to commit the crimes as charged.
Both boys were charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, possession of a firearm and tampering with a witness.
Nielson set a hearing to determine the boy’s sentence for 1 p.m. on April 22.
He currently faces a range of 103 to 127 weeks of incarceration in a juvenile institution, but Rasmussen has filed notice that he intends ask for manifest injustice, which would allow the judge to sentence the boy above or below that standard range.
After hearing from a psychologist and psychiatrist, Judge Nielsen will render his ruling. If he agrees with prosecutors, the boy could be held until he turns 21.
“We had no prior notice of the plea,” Rasmussen said. “Ms. Helen Hokom stood up and said her client wanted to plead guilty. There was no plea bargain.”
The incident began on a bus ride to school Feb. 7 when a fourth-grader saw one of the two boys playing with a knife, according to court records.
As soon as the bus arrived and the students entered a common area to eat breakfast, the boy alerted school employee Richard Payette.
Payette asked one of the suspects whether he had a knife and the boy denied it. Payette discovered both a knife and a handgun in the boy’s backpack in his classroom.
The 10-year-old is related to Eric Booth, who was convicted last year in the 2011 murder of Gordon Feist. Booth shot Feist after he and another man had tried to rob the 63-year-old.
A staff member, Debbie Rogers, asked the 10-year-old why he had the gun. The boy said he and the 11-year-old were going to “get” a girl identified in court documents only by initials.
“When asked what he meant by ‘get’ her, (the 10-year-old) responded that he and (the 11-year-old) were going to get (the girl) away from the school and do her in,” court records state. The 10-year-old “further stated that the (11-year-old) was going to stab (the girl) with a knife and (the 10-year-old) was supposed to keep everyone away.”
The 10-year-old “admitted to Ms. Rogers that there were other students that he and (the 11-year-old) wanted to kill and they had been planning this for a while.”
Rogers then spoke with the 11-year-old, and he told essentially the same story, saying that he and the other suspect wanted to kill the girl “because she was really annoying,” court records state. “I was going to kill her with the knife and (the 10-year-old) was supposed to use the gun to keep anyone from trying to stop me or mess up our plan.”
Rogers then obtained a list of students in their fifth-grade class, and the 11-year-old allegedly showed her six more names of students they were going to target.
Asked about his relationship with the girl, the 11-year-old said that he had been friends with her for several months “but that he hated her now,” Officer Scott Arms wrote. “He also indicated that (the girl) had recently become rude and would pick on him.”
The younger boy said he had been in a “short dating relationship” with the girl but would not give any specifics. He admitted bringing the gun and knife to school: “It was going to go down today,” he said, according to the documents.
The 10-year-old explained that he stole the gun from his older brother. Interviews with the brother revealed that he had stolen the handgun from his late grandfather’s home a few months ago.
The brother “said that he kept the firearm in his bedroom and that his brother must have found his hidden key and removed the case and the gun,” Detective Ron Maxey wrote in court documents.
According to the court records, when Arms asked the 10-year-old if he knew what he was planning was dangerous and against the law, the boy replied: “Yes, I just wanted her dead.”
After a later court hearing, a police detective overheard the boys talking as they waited to be transported to a juvenile facility in Spokane.
“If I find out who told them about our weapons I’m going to kill them,” the 11-year-old said, according to the police detective. “I don’t care when I get out of jail I’m going to come back and kill them.”