COLVILLE — A judge convicted an 11-year-old boy Friday of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder for plotting to kill a girl in his class.
“Simple anger – that is what fueled this,” Stevens County Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson said Friday afternoon as the boy stood with his head down and his arms folded behind his back.
The murder plot, hatched with a 10-year-old classmate who earlier this year pleaded guilty, rattled the Colville community.
School staff seized a handgun, an ammunition clip and a knife from the 10-year-old’s backpack at Fort Colville Elementary School on Feb. 7.
A fourth-grader saw one of the boys playing with the knife on a school bus and told a school worker.
Nielson called the trial the “most serious of my career.” He rejected efforts by the legal defense team to cast the boy as an aloof grade-schooler suffering from bipolar disorder who was unable to separate fact from fiction while conspiring to kill the girl “because she was really annoying.”
The Spokesman-Review is not reporting the names of the children involved in the case because they are minors.
The boy burst into tears as officials led him from the court as his grandparents followed.
Defense attorneys intend to appeal.
“There is no joy in a conviction,” Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said. “But there is relief that a plan to ruin young people’s lives was thwarted.”
The boy will be sentenced Nov. 8 on the conspiracy conviction. He was acquitted of witness tampering.
Defense attorneys announced their intention Friday morning to let “the court get to know (the boy) a little bit better,” before then.
“Specifically, some of the issues (the boy) brings with him to this courtroom,” defense attorney Don Richter said. “Those being his mental illness.”
For more than two hours Friday, lawyers questioned Craig Beaver, a Boise forensic psychologist who examined the defendant multiple times. Richter used the 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. Prosecutors questioned Beaver’s judgment.
Beaver said the boy’s behavior was “strongly suggestive of what we see with childhood bipolar disorder, which is relatively rare.”
The National Institute of Mental Health reports fewer than 3 percent of American adolescents display symptoms associated with the disorder.
The judge found that defense lawyers successfully argued that the boy displayed symptoms of bipolar disorder. Nielson said, however, that the boy’s subsequent behavior on Feb. 7 did not indicate any lack of awareness of the consequences of his actions.
School counselor Debbie Rogers testified Friday that when she spoke with the boy after the handgun and knife were seized, the boy said he planned to stab the girl to death because she was “really annoying.” The other boy was to point the gun at anyone who tried to intervene.
Rogers said she saw no evidence that the boy was experiencing delusions that day.
The other boy received a three- to five-year sentence to a juvenile detention facility in Snoqualmie, Wash., after he pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.