COLVILLE – An 11-year-old implicated in a plot to kill a classmate last year has responded well to treatment and will be released in time to return to school for his eighth-grade year.
Wearing high-top sneakers, an orange polo shirt and glasses, the boy came with his parents to court, where Stevens County Judge Allen Nielson on Thursday cut his sentence by about half. The decision came at the recommendation of prosecutors and defense attorneys. He will now spend a total of 128 weeks in custody.
The agreement throws out an appeal filed on the boy’s behalf contending he didn’t receive proper legal counsel when he pleaded guilty to multiple criminal counts last spring.
The boy, who is not being named by The Spokesman-Review because he is a juvenile, was found by Fort Colville Elementary employees with a gun and a knife in his backpack last year. Investigators later learned he and a friend intended to kill a girl in their class “because she was mean,” according to the co-defendant in the case.
The boy’s role in the plot was to keep other students at bay with a gun while his friend stabbed the girl, according to an admission made to school counselors.
The other boy was found guilty of the same crimes following a bench trial in November. Thursday’s agreement to drop the appeal and accept a reduced sentence will prevent the boy from becoming “institutionalized” by spending too much time in the correctional system, defense attorney Charley Rosenberry said.
“(He) is either the youngest or certainly amongst the youngest juveniles in state juvenile detention,” Rosenberry said, adding his age and personality make him susceptible to picking up behaviors from older inmates.
Multiple counselors and former teachers spoke Thursday, saying the boy was responding beyond expectation to treatment mandated by his court sentence. They also said it was clear he was coaxed into the murder plot, though he was discovered with weapons.
“I really think he was led by a much stronger personality,” said Roger Payette, a retired school employee who was the first to discover the weapons after another student said he saw one of the boys holding the weapons on a school bus.
Colville School District Superintendent Michael Cashion said schools would work to help the boy once he’s released from custody, though no plans were officially made for him to return to the district after he’s released.
“Colville Schools are ready to serve (him) whether it be tomorrow or a year,” Cashion said.
Prosecutors said during the hearing they were encouraged by the boy’s positive response to treatment, which includes group activities, anger management and other therapies.
“It’s heartening for me to see the juvenile process work for someone,” Stevens County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Rasmussen said.
After the hearing, the boy shared a moment with his parents, who declined an interview request. His father told him the treatment process was up to him now, and prosecutors, counselors and Nielson wished the boy good luck. He was then transported back to Echo Glen, a juvenile detention facility in Snoqualmie, Wash., where he will serve the remainder of his sentence. That sentence is scheduled to end in July 2015.
Reading from notes to the judge, the boy said he was progressing well in school and regretted the consequences of his actions.
“I didn’t know how much pain it would cause to the victim, how much trouble it would cause to me, how much pain the victims’ parents would go through, and how much pain my parents would go through,” the boy said.