The hearing to determine whether suspected Freeman shooter Caleb Sharpe is tried as a juvenile or as an adult has been delayed again to this summer, some 11 months after the shooting that killed fellow classmate Sam Strahan.
The court proceeding, which is called a declination hearing, was set to start Monday after previous delays. But Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell said his office asked for the new date in August.
“The defense evaluations that they needed to have done in preparation of the declination hearing are not done,” Haskell said. “We moved it because we need those reports ourselves to determine if we need to hire an expert” to counter the defense expert.
Sharpe, 16, has been in custody since the Sept. 13 shooting that killed Strahan and injured three other students at Freeman High School.
As a result, Haskell charged Sharpe with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and 51 counts of second-degree assault for those students who had fear or apprehension of being shot that day.
Defense attorney Bevan Maxey did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday but previously has said that he believes Sharpe, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, should be tried as a juvenile.
Despite delaying the declination hearing, Superior Court Judge Michael Price will preside over a hearing Monday at which he is expected to rule whether Haskell can use the statements that Sharpe gave to Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives.
In those interviews, sheriff’s detectives Scott Bonney and Marc Melville interviewed Sharpe. They wrote in court records that Sharpe told them about watching documentaries on past school shootings.
On the day of the shooting, Sharpe flipped a coin to decide whether to follow through with his plan, court records state.
Sharpe “concluded that Eric (Harris) and Dylan (Klebold)” – the perpetrators of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 – “were stupid because they were ‘overblowing it so much.’ Sharpe said he began to like their plan more and more,” court documents state. “He watched about Sandy Hook and decided these people were not smart, because they killed themselves in the end.”
On the day of the shooting, Sharpe said he loaded an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle into a golf bag to conceal it. In his left pocket, he placed a .32-caliber handgun. Both guns “belonged to his father, and he took them without permission,” the detectives wrote.
Sharpe said he did not intend to kill himself, and he denied being a victim of physical or sexual abuse.
“Sharpe said the plan went exactly as intended,” detectives wrote. “His plan was to shoot some people at school, just like he did. Sharpe said he was not planning on shooting any particular people; he just planned on shooting people in general.”
Haskell said Wednesday that he is not sure how quickly the case will move to a trial regardless of how Judge Price rules in August. Haskell plans to prosecute a double homicide trial scheduled for October and a high-profile rape case in December.
“So the fall is fairly grim for me,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of availability I will have in 2018 unless something moves.”
Asked if he was surprised to take 11 months to determine whether Sharpe would stand trial as a juvenile or adult, Haskell said “those things are so hard to predict.”
“There are so many factors that are unknowns,” he said, “particularly when you involve experts.”