COLVILLE — Calling the trial “the most serious of my career,” a Stevens County Superior Judge found the 11-year-old Fort Colville Elementary student who plotted to kill a female classmate earlier this year guilty of conspiring to commit first-degree murder.
“Simple anger – that is what fueled this,” Judge Allen Nielson said Friday afternoon, as the boy stood with arms folded behind his back, face pointed downward.
Nielson rejected attempts by the boy’s defense team to cast him as an aloof gradeschooler, suffering from bipolar disorder and unable to separate fact from fiction while developing a two-week plot with another student to bring a gun and knife to school Feb. 7 to kill the girl “because she was really annoying.”
“There is no joy in a conviction,” Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said. “But there is relief that a plan to ruin young peoples’ lives was thwarted.”
The boy was taken into custody immediately following Nielson’s ruling Friday, and was led from the courtroom in tears.
Defense attorneys announced their intention Friday morning to let “the court get to know (the accused) a little bit better.”
“Specifically, some of the issues (the accused) brings with him to this courtroom,” defense attorney Don Richter said. “Those being his mental illness.”
For more than two hours Friday, the second day of arguments in the trial, attorneys questioned Craig Beaver, a forensic psychologist based in Boise who examined the defendant multiple times following his arrest. Richter used testimony to show his client suffers from periods of manic behavior during which he has an inflated sense of self and an inability to separate fact from fantasy, while prosecutors tried to poke holes in Beaver’s judgment.
Beaver said he ran the accused through a battery of tests in May and June at the request of the defense team. The accused’s behavior was “strongly suggestive of what we see with childhood bipolar disorder, which is relatively rare,” Beaver said.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports fewer than 3 percent of American adolescents display symptoms associated with the disorder. Nielson found defense attorneys argued successfully the boy displayed symptoms of bipolar disorder, but said his subsequent behavior that day did not illustrate a lack of awareness of the consequences of his actions.
During an interview, school counselor Debbie Rogers testified the accused said he was planning to stab the girl to death because she was “really annoying” and the second boy was to aim the gun at anyone who tried to intervene. Rogers said Friday she saw no evidence of the boy experiencing delusions the day the gun and knife were discovered.
Earlier Friday, Nielson ruled that incriminating statements overheard in the halls of the Stevens County Courthouse by a probation officer and made to the official at Martin Hall were not admissible because the accused had not been notified of his rights. However, through the interview with Rogers, Nielson ruled sufficient evidence had been presented to prove the two boys had developed a plan and were ready to carry it out when the weapons were discovered.
The co-defendant in the case pleaded guilty to all charges in March. He is serving a minimum three-year sentence in juvenile detention at a facility in Snoqualmie.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for the 11-year-old next month. The conspiracy conviction is a felony under Washington state law.