A resurrected program has allowed nearly a dozen teens accused of burglarizing a north Spokane taxidermy business last summer to come out of the experience without criminal records.
Dave Drury, owner of Knopp Taxidermy off Newport Highway, said Tuesday that he empathized with the kids – and their parents.
“I’ve got five kids, I know exactly what those parents felt like in that room,” said Drury, referring to an October sit-down in which he, the accused teens, attorneys and parents met at the YMCA near his shop to discuss the crime and restitution. “It’s almost harder on the parents than it is on the kids in that kind of deal.”
The teenagers were accused of breaking into Drury’s taxidermy shop and making off with more than $27,000 worth of mounted animals to mimic a YouTube video.
Envelopes containing a copy of the deal brokered in mediation – which included restitution of nearly $10,000 and eight hours of community service for each teenager, and in some cases personal letters – are stored in Drury’s business desk, just inside the back door the burglars tried to kick in and pry open with a crowbar Aug. 26, according to court documents.
Spokane County sheriff’s deputies arrested two suspects that night. Two more accomplices came forward in the following weeks, followed by the rest of the group. All were charged with second-degree burglary, theft or criminal trespass.
The case caught the eye of attorneys and former juvenile court mediator Bob Murphy, all of whom advocated resolving it through alternative means. Spokane County used to have a robust juvenile offender mediation program, Murphy said, but with funding cuts and limited staff the project fell by the wayside about five years ago.
“At one point, when we were fully funded, we were doing something like 200 resolutions in a year,” Murphy said. “It was a lot.”
Drury agreed to the mediation. Initially angered by the actions of the teens, Drury said he saw a way to impart a lesson without slapping them with lifelong criminal records.
“I really didn’t want to see all those kids get felony raps,” he said.
The Spokesman-Review is not naming the teens involved because they are minors, and the criminal charges against them have been dropped as a result of the restitution.
Discussions between the parties culminated in an Oct. 21 meeting, Drury said.
He sat in a circle with the teenagers, their parents ringing the perimeter of the room, and told them about other crime at his location and his plans for his shop, including turning the space into a display for children to learn about animals.
Murphy, who orchestrated the meeting, was also present.
“It was like the kids sat down with their granddad,” Murphy said.
Many of the teens worked off their debts from side jobs, according to their letters.
“This is going to give (my son) a great lesson in the value of a dollar,” one parent wrote. Others wrote Drury about their community service and what they’d learned from the experience. One teenage boy served his time at a hospital charity fair in Newport, Wash., at Christmas.
“I helped kids create miniature paper reindeer, and this one girl I helped make nine of them and a sleigh for Santa!” the boy wrote.
“I am incredibly sorry for what I had done to you,” another wrote. “It was definitely the worst mistake of my life.”
Murphy said the experience shows the promise of a program that hasn’t been able to amass the funding and grant dollars it needs to survive.
“It really established itself as a positive alternative that the court could take,” Murphy said.
For Drury, the upside is obvious.
“I think those kids really learned something,” he said.