Trial begins for Colville boy accused of murder plot
COLVILLE — An 11-year-old boy sat in a Stevens County courtroom Thursday, plying a rubber band between his hands as lawyers tangled over admitting a handgun and knife as evidence the gradeschooler conspired to rape and murder a female classmate in February “because she was annoying.”
Prosecuting attorney Lech Radzimski attempted to cast the boy as anger-prone and keenly aware of his intentions to rape and kill the girl when the accused was linked to the weapons found in another student’s possession at Fort Colville Elementary School on Feb. 7. But defense attorney Don Richter argues his client suffers from personality disorders that diminished his awareness of the seriousness of his alleged threats.
Thursday’s key testimony came from Melody Youker, a case manager at the juvenile detention facility in Medical Lake where the accused was taken. Youker told the court she processed the boy after he was arrested, and found him in a holding cell “kind of bouncing around.”
“He seemed overly happy, considering the situation,” Youker said.
Youker testified that during the intake process, the boy made an unsolicited admission of guilt, telling her he was having a bad day because “he was here … and (the girl) was still alive.” As Youker testified, the boy lowered his head, cupped his forehead with his palms and stared at his feet.
Over several months in detention, Youker said the boy came to trust her, and in May revealed he had episodes at night where he believed he left his body and became a wolf. He told Youker he was afraid “the wolf” was taking control of him. Richter pressed Youker on the unpredictability of the boy’s behavior, and she said he had occasional mood swings.
The defense plans to call a psychiatric expert Friday when the trial resumes to testify to the accused’s mental state, Richter said.
“I look forward to people actually getting to get to know (the accused) a little bit better,” Richter said following the day’s proceedings.
Stevens County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Rasmussen said he was pleased with Thursday’s testimony and remained confident the accused will be found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Judge Allen Nielson is presiding over the case and will determine whether to convict or acquit the boy.
In morning testimony, one classmate said he saw the boy playing with the knife on a bus ride to school, while another said he was offered money to keep quite about the plot court documents allege the two students hatched over a period of two weeks. According to testimony, the accused planned to stab the girl to death while his friend pointed a gun at classmates, pledging to shoot anyone who tried to intervene.
The second witness, whose name is not being reported by The Spokesman-Review along with all minors involved in the case, testified the accused discussed handcuffing and raping the girl prior to stabbing her to death with the knife.
“(The accused) has an easy temper, he gets mad really quickly,” the boy, who described himself as a friend of the defendant, said. He also said he felt sorry for the defendant.
In cross examination, Richter seized upon claims the girl and her friends constantly teased the defendant.
Other witnesses reconstructed the events of Feb. 7 that led to the accused and another boy’s arrest. After Roger Payette, a school disciplinary officer and special needs instructor, was told the accused had a knife, Payette searched his pockets and backpack, turning up no evidence. However, a search of a friend’s property yielded a knife with a blade-length longer than 3 inches and a semi-automatic .45 caliber handgun.
The defense team objected to the weapons being admitted as evidence in the trial, but were overruled by Nielson. However, Nielson later suppressed a letter allegedly penned by the boy’s co-conspirator from being read in court.
During the proceedings, the boy - wearing a white dress shirt and diagonally striped tie - scribbled notes on a legal pad, bent over the table and whispering to his attorneys. The family took the boy for a lunch break and snacks during recesses.
A school counselor, Debbie Rogers, testified that after revealing to the boy her knowledge of the plot and the weapons, he stood up and started pacing the room. The behavior was consistent with the several other times she’d seen him upset, a recurring problem after the boy enrolled in the Colville district in April 2012, she said.
“He was very agitated; he started grabbing his head,” Rogers said.
The boy’s grandparents were called to the school and parents of all students were notified of the incident later that morning, according to court records. A decision was not made to put the school on lockdown, Payette said. Police took the two boys involved into custody, when they made further incriminating statements, according to a parole officer within earshot of the boys while they awaited transport to Martin Hall.
The co-defendant in the case pleaded guilty to all charges in April and was sentenced to a minimum of three years in juvenile detention. Rasmussen said the boy, who told police he stole the weapons from an older brother who in turn took them from the boy’s late grandfather, is serving his sentence at Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie.