The second suspect in the 2017 baseball-bat beating death of an Airway Heights man pleaded guilty last week to first-degree manslaughter.
Brandon Pierce, 20, is scheduled to be sentenced April 12 after agreeing to a plea deal that included prosecutors reducing the charge from first-degree murder. Because of his prior felony history, including an assault he pleaded guilty to in August 2017, his standard sentencing range is from 10 to 13 years in prison, with another three years of community custody.
Pierce’s co-defendant, 20-year-old Christian Palmer, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in November. He was sentenced to two years. With credit for time served, he ended up serving one month in prison.
Charging documents for the defendants describe a frenzied and chaotic fight that broke out Aug. 25, 2017, because the two began arguing over a girl, ending with the death of a neighbor, 55-year-old Terry Toner.
Records say sometime after 2 a.m. the verbal disagreement between Palmer and Pierce in an apartment complex at 10913 W. Sixth Avenue in Airway Heights spilled into a breezeway, where Toner became confrontational over noise and got into a physical altercation with the two men.
Later that night, the Palmer and Pierce were confronted again, which is when Toner started hitting them with a bat. Several witnesses said Toner “immediately began recklessly swinging the bat and screaming at the guests and residents,” according to records. He then struck several partygoers with the bat, including Palmer.
Witnesses described seeing Toner getting knocked to the ground during the scuffle with multiple people. One women said Pierce, Palmer and others started “hurting Toner real bad.”
One woman recorded portions of the fight, which showed Toner on the ground, choking on blood in his mouth, court records state. His wife was trying to turn him on his side so he wouldn’t choke, which is when Pierce, who now had control of the bat, started yelling “I will (expletive) kill you” as he swings it at Toner’s right side.
The video, according to court records, then shows Palmer walk over and “stomp on Toner’s head multiple times.” His wife meanwhile, yells at him to “stop it” as Toner lies unresponsive on the ground.
When law enforcement arrived, they found Palmer and Toner still at the scene. Toner was transported to Providence Sacred Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Palmer, meanwhile, was treated and booked into the Spokane County Jail. He claimed to have no memory of the fight.
Pierce reportedly ran from the scene and stashed the bat in a bush somewhere between Airway Heights and Spokane. He was later detained by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and agreed to be interviewed.
Court records state Pierce admitted during interrogation to hitting Toner with the bat during the fight.
Last month, Pierce’s attorney, Joe Kuhlman, filed a lengthy motion asking Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno to throw out the interrogation evidence. He argued Pierce did not know he was being questioned in connection with a crime, and that Pierce’s attorneys were not notified of the interview or allowed to see him during it.
The state, however, contended Pierce willfully signed a form signifying detectives read him his Miranda rights and agreed to be interviewed without an attorney.
Moreno was not able to rule on the motion before Pierce pleaded guilty.
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