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Idaho man admits ‘07 slaying in Coolin

A North Idaho man set to go to trial this week instead pleaded guilty to charges that carry up to 15 years in prison.

Keith Allan Brown, 49, (right) entered Alford pleas last Wednesday in Bonner County District Court to voluntary manslaughter and accessory to grand theft in connection with the January 2007 shooting death of Leslie Carlton Breaw of Priest Lake. 

Brown’s Alford plea means he did not admit guilt involving the killing of Breaw (left), who was shot to death he in Coolin on Jan. 23, 2007, but acknowledged a jury likely would convict him.

Brown and his wife, Tyrah B. Brown, then 25, were arrested in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., in March 2007, accused of using Breaw’s debit card. Authorities seized a station wagon and a sailboat the Browns had purchased, allegedly with money they obtained from a $55,000 escrow check of Breaw’s that had been forged.

The couple returned to Idaho and were charged with first-degree murder; Tyrah Brown (right) pleaded guilty in February 2009 to harboring a wanted felon and theft by recovering/possessing stolen property and received light jail time and probation, according to court records.

 Shortly after his arrest, Brown told the Bonner County Daily Bee that he was trying to get control of a .22-caliber rifle held by Breaw when he accidentally shot Breaw.

Voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years in Idaho. Brown is to be sentenced Nov. 5.

The lengthy case was linked to the resignation of a Bonner County Jail chaplain who publicly objected to an early ruling that Brown was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Report: Sex toys sold from Hirzel’s home

Deputy Brian Hirzel, already under investigation for fatally shooting a Spokane Valley pastor, now is the subject of a new probe.

Hirzel failed to disclose, as required under sheriff’s department rules, that he and his wife are co-owners of a business that sells sex toys online, and could face disciplinary measures if investigators determine he’s taken an active role in the company’s operations, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Monday.

“He told us his wife runs it. If his wife runs it, I can’t control what a spouse does,” Knezovich said, adding that an anonymous tipster advised the Sheriff’s Office on Friday of Hirzel’s connection to the sex toys company. “If he was part of it, there will be some kind of disciplinary action. The discipline will be determined by the facts of the matter.”

RRead the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

Burton: ‘I know I didn’t murder this man’

Six days after tanking a plea deal by professing his innocence, a Spokane man who drove the suspected gunman from a murder in January pleaded guilty to four felonies but maintained he played no role in the gang-related slaying.

“In my heart, I know I didn’t murder this man or help murder this man,” said Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton.

Burton, 23, said he knew the victim, John S. Williams, “personally.”

“He was a nice guy to me, too. He was real cool,” Burton said. “…I do feel sorry for him.”

He lamented the lifestyle that leads to shooting deaths like Williams’.

“I’m from Cali. I see it constantly, everyday,” Burton said.

He said he felt Williams’ family’s pain because people close to him have been murdered, too. He mentioned his cousin, Aaron Bascomb, who was shot to death in Los Angeles in April.

“I know the severity of what you have to deal with this,” Burton said to the members of Williams’ family who sat in the courtroom. “I’ve lost so many people I grew up with…We go through it constantly down there.” 

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese approved Burton’s plea deal, which sentenced him to 60 months in prison. He’ll serve the sentence the same time as a 63-month sentence for a second-degree assault conviction handed down by a jury last month.

He pleaded guilty today to harassment, bail jumping, and two counts of rendering criminal assistance. The deal reduced robbery and assault charges to rendering (Burton drove a man who robbed and assaulted a woman from the scene) and dropped an additional count of bail jumping. The harassment charge stemmed from text messages Burton sent to the mother of his 14-month-old daughter.

Burton said his child is his impetus for resolving his criminal charges quickly.

“Being deprived of your freedom, it teaches you a lot,” he said.

Burton has a previous assault conviction for a 2005 gang shooting in which Demetrius Route was convicted of murder and Deric D. Burton was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault.

That conviction coupled with his assault conviction from last month makes two strikes for Cedric - one more and he’ll be sent to prison for the rest of his life. His public defender, Mark Hannibal, said Burton understands that.

“He is a young man,” Hannibal said. “He does have a few goals in his life; one is to continue his education.”

Burton said he trusts in God and said though he’s made a lot of mistakes, “Regardless of what’s on my record, I’ve never intentionally assaulted anyone or robbed anyone.”

“I was becoming a victim to the lifestyle I was getting myself into,” he said. “A second of freedom, a second with my daughter, it’s worth more than a lifetime of bondage.”

Burton acknowledged Williams’ supporters as he was taken from the courtroom back to jail.

“God bless you guys,” he said.

Williams’ mother, Cindy, said she appreciated Burton’s kind words about her son and said she isn’t sure Burton even knew who’d been killed when he drove the alleged shooter, Edward L. “TD” Thomas, from the party at 5405 N. Crestline Jan. 17.

Thomas, who was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder for John Williams’ slaying and the attempted slaying of his son. Police say Thomas had a gun pointed at him by a gang member associated with Williams and felt he needed to retaliate.

Past coverage:

June 4: Seven face charges in shooting death

May 21: Lawyer: Fugitive was in Cali for cousin’s funeral

March 9: Homicide case not a ‘simple’ investigation

Off-duty WSP trooper shoots home intruder

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. (AP) — An off-duty Washington State Patrol trooper shot and killed an intruder who attacked him at his south Kitsap home, according to the Kitsap County sheriff’s office.

An investigation continues, bu the sheriff’s office says it appears the trooper went outside Saturday shortly before midnight to check out a car on his property. When he identified himself as a law enforcement officer to the driver, a fight began and the trooper was struck in the head by a steel rod. Deputies say the trooper was able to struggle to his feet and when his attacker refused to comply with his commands, resorted to lethal force.

The name of the shooting victim, believed to be a 30-year-old South Kitsap man, was not immediately released. He was pronounced dead at Tacoma General Hospital. The trooper was taken to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor for treatment.

GU professor protests at killer’s execution

(AP) A law professor at Gonzaga University who drove to Walla Walla from Spokane to protest the execution of Cal Coburn Brown told the Associated Press she was embarrassed by Brown’s mandated fate. 

“I want to make a very strong statement to the citizens of Washington and to Gov. Gregoire that many of us are opposed to killing people in our names,” said Mary Pat Treuthart, 57. “And I’m angry, saddened, and embarrassed that the U.S. is still using the death penalty to punish anyone for their crimes.”

Treuthart joined about two dozen people opposed to capital punishment inside a gated area outside the prison where Brown was executed early today. (Treuhart is pictured, with Nancy Nelson, also of Spokane, at the protest Thursday night in Walla Walla. Trehart is at the left, Nelson is at the right.)

A separate gated area for death penalty supporters drew three people. Construction worker Mark Clark, 36, of Kennewick, said he thought for several days about coming to the execution. 

“My thought is you’ve got to pay for what you’ve done,” Clark said. “You’ve got to be accountable for your actions.”

Brown (right) was executed for 1991 rape, torture and murder of 21-year-old Holly Washa. Brown confessed to killing Washa during an interrogation in California for an alleged assault on a woman there. He later led authorities to Washa’s battered body, which was inside the trunk of a car.

 Brown met Washa near Sea-Tac airport in Washington when he helpfully pointed to Washa’s rear tire, indicating a problem. When she stopped to check it out, he carjacked her at knifepoint.

For the next 36 hours, Brown robbed, raped and tortured Washa, before stabbing and strangling her.

University Ministry and Catholic Charities sponsored a vigil against the death penalty Thursday night at Gonzaga University’s Crosby Center. The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane organized a nondenominational ceremony followed by another vigil on the steps of the Spokane County Courthouse.

Brown was the first Washington inmate to die by a one-drug lethal injection.

Brown spent much of Thursday talking on the telephone with his attorneys and family members, said Belinda Stewart, communications and outreach director for the state Department of Corrections.

His last meal included meat pizza and apple pie.

  “He is resigned to what is going to happen tonight,” Stewart said Thursday. “He’s aware, he knows and he’s resigned.”

Washa’s father, brother and two sisters of witnessed the execution, as did King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg (left).

Just before his execution, Brown protested sentencing disparities, saying that criminals who had killed many more people, such as Green River killer Gary Ridgway, were serving life sentences while he received a death sentence. 

“I only killed one victim,” he said. “I cannot really see that there is true justice. Hopefully, sometime in the future that gets straightened out.”

Brown did not apologize to the family of the victim, but said he understood their emnity for him. He said he forgave that hatred, held no emnity toward them and hoped the execution would give them closure. He also said the prison staff had been most professional and that he had no complaints about his treatment there in 17 years.

After his comments, Brown, who was lying on his back strapped to a gurney, looked up at the tubes sticking out of the wall and connected to his body. When the drug was administered, his chest heaved three times and his lips shuddered, then there was no movement.

The Washa family showed little emotion during the execution. Both sisters sat in the front row holding unopened tissue boxes, while brother Roger sat in the back with his father, his arms folded across his chest.

“Closure has finally come to the family,” said John Washa, Holly’s father, of Ogallala, Neb. “Why he did what he did to my daughter Holly I guess I’ll never understand.” (Holly’s mother is pictured left in 2009)

“Now it’s finally over, I don’t have to think about him anymore,” said sister Becky Washa of Sioux Falls, S.D., as family members held a picture of the victim.

Brown’s attorney and members of his family were not present at the execution, though he spoke with them by phone on Thursday.

Brown was the first Washington inmate to die by a one-drug lethal injection. His was the fifth execution since 1993, and the third in a row by lethal injection. All the others were by hanging.

Read an Associated Press story about the executions by clicking the link below.

Gang murder suspect arrested in Compton

A Spokane gang member accused of shooting to death a rival outside a party in January was arrested today in Compton, Calif., police announced tonight.

 Edward L. “TD” Thomas, 25, wanted since June for first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, was captured by the fugitive squad of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Compton station, according to a news release by Matt Rose of the Spokane Violent Crime Gang Enforcement Team.

Spokane police detectives have been in close contact with Southern California law enforcement regarding the Jan. 17 murder of John S. Williams, 38, because “many of the suspects were known to have ties to the South Central Los Angeles area,” Rose said.

Police say Thomas shot Williams in the face outside a birthday party for a reputed gang member at 5405 N. Crestline Street. He’s also accused of trying to kill Williams’ son during the shooting.

Police believe the shooting resulted from lingering tensions between Thomas and a rival gang member who has a child with the mother of Thomas’ child. The rival, who reportedly belonged to the same gang as Williams, had pulled a gun on Thomas a couple weeks before the party, and Thomas felt he needed to retaliate, police said.

One witness told police there was a feud brewing between older Spokane gang members like Williams and younger members like Thomas.

Six men are accused of helping Thomas avoid arrest or of lying to police to cover up the murder. Five - Eric “Smalls” Burton, Jr., 25; Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, 23; John E. Burton, 27; James Henderson, 33; Christopher J. “Baby Boy” Route, 24 - have been arrested. Only Marc A. “Bookie” Carter remains at large.

Police say most of the men are cousins; Cedric and John Burton are half-brothers.

Route, Thomas, Cedric Burton and Eric Burton were convicted of felony assault or riot for a January 2005 gang murder outside Crazy 8’s bar. Demetrius Route was convicted of that murder and remains in prison. Deric D. Burton was convicted of two counts of second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit first-degree assault. He also remains in prison.

Past coverage:

June 4: Seven face charges in shooting death

March 9: Homicide case not a ‘simple’ investigation

State prepares for 1st execution since ‘01

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — In a state where executions are uncommon, Cal Coburn Brown’s lethal injection on Friday will be the first time since 2001 that Washington has carried out its capital punishment. 

Barring a last-minute stay of execution from the state or U.S. Supreme Court, the 52-year-old will become the first death row inmate in the state to die by a one-drug method of execution, a recently changed protocol from a three-drug cocktail. Washington is the second state in the nation, after Ohio, to change to the one-drug method.

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday denied clemency for Brown, who had petitioned for his death sentence to be commuted to a life sentence.

The governor said she found “no basis to change the death sentence that was imposed by the jury in accordance with the laws of our state.”

The state Supreme Court also denied a stay, though Brown’s attorneys immediately asked for an emergency stay and another review. An appeal challenging the qualifications of the state’s execution team is before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Eighteen months ago, Brown, who was convicted in the 1991 murder of Seattle-area woman Holly Washa was just hours from a lethal injection when he received a stay of execution. (Washa’s sister, Becky Washa, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is pictured outside the Washington State Penitentiary in March 2009 with a picture of her slain daughter)

The state Supreme Court granted the stay because another inmate had been granted a hearing on the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection policy. Since then, Washington’s execution method has changed, as has the four-member team assigned to carry out the injection.

The previous team resigned, fearing its members might be identified after several inmates challenged the state’s previous method and questioned the qualifications of the execution team.

Read the rest of the AP story by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

July 29, 2010: Wash. Supreme Court lifts stay of execution for Brown

March 12, 2009: Wash. Supreme Court stays Brown execution

June 5, 2007: U.S. Supreme Court reinstates killer’s death sentence

Deputy says pastor was reaching for a gun

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel said he ordered Pastor Wayne Scott Creach to drop his gun multiple times, struck the 74-year-old man in the leg with a police baton and fired only after the property owner began to draw the gun out of his waistband, an investigator said Tuesday in the first detailed account of the Aug. 25 incident that resulted in Creach’s death.

At no time did Creach aim his weapon at Hirzel, according to Spokane Police Lt. Dave McGovern, who supervises the detectives who investigate major crimes.The autopsy following the shooting showed no corresponding mark on Creach’s leg from a baton strike, McGovern said.

“But then again, that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t struck,” the police lieutenant said. “It’s just that there were no marks of it.” Further forensic testing will be done to determine if there are marks on Creach’s trousers or fibers on the baton. Read Tom Clouse’s full story here.

Past coverage: Sept. 6: Deputy says he hit pastor with baton

Plea deal halted after suspect complains

A Spokane gang member set to plead guilty today to several felonies changed his mind at the last minute and is now set for trial.

Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton (right), accused of helping a murder suspect avoid arrest, told Judge Tari Eitzen that he was going to plead guilty because “I don’t want to jeopardize any more time,” but then insisted “I’m not guilty of any of these allegations at all, and I know I can beat 90 percent of these allegations.” 

Eitzen questioned him repeatedly about his intention and asked if he wanted to plead guilty because he was worried about what would happen if he went to trial (the basis for an Alford plea.)

Burton, 23, said he wasn’t worried about a trial.

“I don’t think I can be found guilty,” Burton said. “I know I’m not guilty of any of these crimes.”

Burton was to plead guilty to harassment, bail jumping and two counts of rending criminal assistance, one in connection to the Jan. 17 murder of John S. WIlliams.

The deal would have dropped first-degree robbery and second-degree assault charges, as well as an additional bail jumping charge.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla was to recommend Burton receive 5 years in prison, which he would serve concurrently with a 63-month sentence imposed last month after a jury convicted him of second-degree assault. The charges stemmed from Burton skipping a court hearing, threatening to kill the mother of his child, helping a man who robbed and assaulted a woman escape the home, and for helping murder suspect Edward L. “TD” Thomas after Thomas (left) allegedly shot Williams to death in January.

Burton said Cipolla’s version of the events was wrong and said he missed court because he had a flat tire.

“My speedy trial rights have been violated…just a lot of things,” Burton said. “I don’t feel I have been treated fairly.” Burton said he had a 15-month-old daughter and was “already off the scale with all these strikes, you know what I mean?”

Etizen replied that she didn’t.

“It really truly doesn’t matter to me,” Eitzen said. “We can halt this process and you can go to trial.”

The judge did just that, sending the case to Judge Michael Price to be assigned a trial date.

Burton was taken back to the Spokane County Jail, where he’s been since early May after being arrested in Los Angeles. He said he’d left the state to attend his cousin’s funeral.

Burton is among six men facing charges for the Jan. 17 fatal shooting outside 5405 N. Crestline. His cousin, 33-year-old James C. Henderson, pleaded guilty to riot on Friday and was credited for 102 days served in jail.

Thomas, the alleged triggerman, still is at large. Anyone with tips on his location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Deputy says he saw armed man approach

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Hirzel told investigators Friday that he saw Pastor Wayne Scott Creach approaching his unmarked patrol car from a distance of about 30 feet with a gun in his hand before they had a verbal confrontation. 

Hirzel said in a videotaped interview that he fired one shot that killed Creach on Aug. 25, according to a news release sent Friday by Spokane Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

“According to Officer Hirzel’s statement and evidence collected at the scene, ultimately there was a close encounter between the officer and Mr. Creach near the officer’s car,” the release said. “Officer Hirzel stated there was a verbal exchange between himself and Mr. Creach prior to the single gunshot being fired. Officer Hirzel’s statement and the evidence confirms only one shot was fired.” 

The news release offered no explanation of what was said or by whom, or why Hirzel felt the need to pull the trigger, killing the 74-year-old pastor in the parking lot of his nursery business at 14208 E. 4th Ave. in Spokane Valley.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here

Read the full news release by clicking the last link at the end of this post.

Past coverage:

Sept. 3: Pastor buried in Oklahoma

Sept. 1: Deputy’s vacation delays probe into fatal shooting

Sept. 1: Son offers insight into pastor’s fatal encounte

Aug. 31: Officer involved in fatal shooting identified

Aug. 31: Mourners note ‘good example’ set by slain clergyman

Aug. 28: Sheriff offers condolences, withholds details

Aug. 27: Valley officer kills pastor at nursery

Attorney seeks stay for death row inmate

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Attorneys for a death row inmate who is scheduled to be executed this month have filed a request for an emergency stay with the Washington state Supreme Court. 

Cal Coburn Brown argues that his death sentence should be reversed because information related to his mental illness was not adequately considered during sentencing.

Brown reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder. He is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 10 for the 1991 torture and murder of 22-year-old Holly Washa, a Burien woman.

Brown also has filed an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is challenging, among other things, the state’s new one-drug system for lethal injection.

Brown is incarcerated at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Past coverage:

July 29, 2010: Wash. Supreme Court lifts stay of execution for Brown

March 12, 2009: Wash. Supreme Court stays Brown execution

June 5, 2007: U.S. Supreme Court reinstates killer’s death sentence

Killer’s boyfriend: ‘I have lost everything’

Murder charges against Brian L. Moore, boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye Stark, were filed Aug. 26 - exactly one year after he was indicated on U.S. District Court in the Central District of California on two federal weapons charges. 

Moore was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison in the federal case. He’s already served about 16 months. Spokane police hope federal authorities will transport him here. If not, detectives will go get him.  The charges are the second try for prosecutors.

Moore’s federal public defender, Sean Kennedy, had objected to federal prosecutors in California discussing the Stark murder case in Moore’s sentencing documents, saying the “salacious” details had nothing to do with Moore.

But Spokane investigators believe Moore masterminded the plot to murder Dale Stark, helped control his assets and trained Shellye to use firearms.

He was arrested in an Orange County warehouse in April 2009 with unregistered guns and homemade silencers.

In a letter to the judge, Moore said he kept the weapons because they reminded him of happy memories with his father. Working with guns was “how my father and I perpetuate our relationship,” Moore wrote. “This is how I heard him say, “I love you.”

Moore said the effects of his arrest and imprisonment have been “to say the least, dramatic.”

“I have lost everything, from my good name, to the respect of my son,” Moore wrote. Ii can not begin to express my shame.”

Read my full story on the new charges against Moore here.

This story about Moore’s first arrest on murder charges provides more details:

April 28, 2009: Boyfriend accused of helping plan Stark murder

Family seeks answers in guard’s death

Eight years ago, Bassam Al Hayek left a little town near Bethlehem to start a new life away from the political and religious crossfire.

He and his wife settled in Spokane, far away from the Middle East violence he saw as an Arab Christian in the Palestinian territories.

“We knew we would be killed sooner or later,” Al Hayek said of living in the midst of fighting between fundamentalist Muslims and Israeli troops, according to a 2008 Spokesman-Review article. “It was just a matter of by whom and when.”

This week, Al Hayek sat in the living room of his northwest Spokane home, examining pictures of his youngest son’s body. His son, George B. Al Hayek, 26, was the private security officer who was shot to death last week during an altercation with a group of people in an alley outside an east Spokane apartment complex. (Al Hayek is pictured right with son Issa. A memorial to George is pictured above.) 

Police found the gunman, Jason M. Hartell, performing CPR on Al Hayek when they arrived after the shooting, which occurred before 11 p.m. Aug. 24 between the Pepsi bottling plant at 4014 E. Sprague Ave. and the Pacific Plaza Apartments, 4023 E. Pacific Ave. Hartell says he fired in self-defense. 

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 26: Witnesses say slain security guard confronted group

Bassam Al Hayek is a celebrated Palestinian artist (he’s pictured at right in 2008).

Here are past stories about him:

May 22, 2005: Carving a new life

Dec. 24, 2005: Spreading his wings

March 20, 2008: Far away from West Bank, part 1

April 10, 2008: Far away from West Bank, part 2

Valley officer who shot pastor identified

The deputy who fatally shot a Spokane Valley pastor and business owner last week was identified Monday as Brian Hirzel, a two-year veteran of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office who also has held law enforcement positions in Kootenai County and in Southern California. 

Hirzel, 41, (right) has agreed to meet Thursday with detectives investigating the shooting death of 74-year-old Pastor Wayne “Scott” Creach (left), Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich confirmed.

The investigation is being conducted by the Spokane Police Department. 

Although authorities still have few details about the encounter, Knezovich described Hirzel as cooperative and noted that he has agreed to the interview with detectives even though he has the same constitutional right to remain silent as anyone else.  

“This isn’t a friendly interview he is heading for. This is a criminal investigation,” Knezovich said. “After that, there will be an administrative review,” which will determine whether any disciplinary measures are warranted.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

The release of Hirzel’s name came the same day as Creach’s funeral, which took place at the Greenacres Baptist Church that he founded. (Pictured above.) Friends, family and parishioners filled the sanctuary, youth building and a large event tent erected on the church lawn. Some attendees had to stand outside and watch video feeds of the service.

“Pastor Scott loved his wife and his family. He will be greatly missed,” colleague Eric Walsh said during the service. “The Creach family finds great comfort as they see God’s plan unfolding through this tragedy.”

Past coverage:

Aug. 28: Sheriff offers condolences, withholds details

Aug. 27: Valley officer kills pastor at nursery

Suspects in gang murder headed to prison

Two cousins charged in a gang-related mucrder are headed to prison on unrelated convictions.

Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, 23, was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Friday for second-degree assault.

Eric “Smalls” Burton, Jr., 25, also was sentenced recently to 20 months in prison for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver.

Cedric Burton had been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for trying to run over two men in a downtown Spokane parking lot in November, but a jury convicted him of only assault, which is his second strike. A co-defendant, Charles Willy Jackson, is charged with second-degree assault, third-degree malicious mischief and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) after police say he shot out the back window of the men’s Hummer. His trial is set for September.

Eric Burton received the low-end of the standard sentence for his crack cocaine conviction, which stemmed from him having 26 baggies of the drug when Spokane police stopped him last summer.

Authorities have said he may face federal charges for allegedly possessing the gun used to kill John S. Williams on Jan. 17.

Both cousins have convictions related a 2005 gang murder, and both still are charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance in connection with Williams’ murder in January.

The accused triggerman, Edward “TD” Thomas, still is at large.

Past coverage:

June 3: Seven charged in January gang murder

May 21: Lawyer: Fugitive was in Cali for cousin’s funeral

May 3: Warrant issued for accused would-be killer

Despite deal, murder witness doesn’t testify

COLVILLE – Spokane County prosecutors ended their first-degree murder case against Christopher H. Devlin without calling the only person they believe witnessed the killing.

Defense attorneys Mark Vovos and Roger Hunko implored Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque to allow them to tell jurors that prosecutors Larry Steinmetz and Dale Nagy agreed to give Carl A. Hoskins a deal in exchange for testimony – that as it turns out never came.

“He’s the only guy who saw anything, supposedly,” Vovos said. “If they didn’t believe him, why would they give him the 27 months?”

Steinmetz refused to comment about why he didn’t call Hoskins as a witness in the trial against the 57-year-old Devlin, who is charged with the May 2008 slaying of 52-year-old Daniel Heily.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

July 26: Trial opens in murder of crime witness

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mixup takes death penalty off table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Pic shows rope used to bind murder victim

A Spokane man was bound with a rope before being thrown to his death off the Sunset Bridge in June. 

Police on Monday released a photo of that rope, which was used to bind William P. “Bill” Pickard’s hands and neck, to bring attention to a murder that’s provided few clues.

 “We’re hoping this may generate a lead or two,” said Lt. Dave McGovern. “We believe there’s more than one person involved in this crime.”

Pickard died after being thrown from the Sunset Bridge early June 30 in what detectives suspect may have been a drug-related murder.

Pickard’s hands and neck were bound with a nylon rope that McGovern described as “a flat rope that’s black and white in design…It’s kind of like a shoelace but it’s bigger.”

The rope is about three-quarters of an inch in diameter.

“We think it’s unique enough that there’s not too many of these out there,” McGovern said.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Aug. 7: Victim’s family, friends hold vigil below bridge

July 26: 2 recent Spokane homicides, few clues

July 1: Police hope car holds clues in man’s death

Theft charge dropped against killer’s dad

Identity charges have been dismissed against the father of a prostitute convicted of murdering her husband.

The dismissal of the first-degree identity theft charge against Curtis A. Johnson, 69, comes about a month before his daughter’s boyfriend, Brian L. Moore, (pictured) is expected to be sentenced to two years behind bars for two federal weapons convictions. Moore has been in jail since April 2009 and likely will receive credit for time served.

Spokane County investigators have vowed to refile murder charges against Moore for the Dec. 9, 2007 murder of Dale Stark, who was shot to death by Johnson’s daughter, Shellye L. Stark in their Spokane home.

Police believe Moore helped Shellye Stark plot the murder to get Dale Stark’s assets.

But prosecutors moved to dismiss the original charges of against Moore last October after a judge ruled critical evidence from a private investigator hired by Stark and Moore was not admissible.

Johnson was accused of cashing two checks with signatures forged to look like Dale Stark’s after the murder.

According to court documents, someone transferred $9,500 from Dale Stark’s home equity line on Dec. 28, 2007, into a credit union account Shellye Stark (left) took control of after her husband’s murder. 

Less than a week later, Johnson reportedly cashed the two checks from that credit union account - one for $3,000, the other for $9,500 - in Newport, Wash. He lives in Priest River.

Moore is to be sentenced to 24 months in prison and 51 months probation on Aug. 30, assuming a federal judge follows the sentence recommended in the plea agreement. 

It’s unclear if a deal was reached with Johnson to testify against Moore, but the felony charge against him was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can refile, according to an order signed by Superior Court Judge Michael Price on July 23.

In a plea agreement filed in June in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, Moore admits to possessing an unregistered rifle and a firearms silencer found in his Orange County, Calif., warehouse by Spokane police on April 27, 2009. Police found diagrams in the building “showing the design and construction of a firearm silencer,” according to the agreement.

Detectives don’t believe Moore was in Spokane when Shellye shot Dale, rather they allege he plotted the murder with Shellye and helped her concoct a sordid tale of spousal abuse in a failed attempt to dupe authorities into thinking the killing was in self defense.

A Spokane County jury rejected her claim in March 2009, and Judge Tari Eitzen sentenced her to 50 years in prison. She’s at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.

Read past coverage of the case here.

Crenshaw declines to speak at sentencing

In the end, after 2 1/2 years and a two-week trial, the killer had nothing to say.

“No thank you, your honor,” said Justin Crenshaw when Judge Tari Eitzen asked him if he had anything to say for the murders of Sarah Clark and Tanner Pehl. “I don’t want to take away anything from the families. My attorney covered it, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Eitzen pressed the 22-year-old, reminding him it was his only opportunity to speak.

“That’s correct. I understand that your honor,” said Crenshaw, dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit and sporting newly buzzed hair and scruffy facial hair. “Thank you.”

Crenshaw sat stoically through more than three hours of emotional testimony from Clark and Pehl’s loved ones.

He watched witnesses but typically sat with his chin resting on a closed fist, appearing uninterested. 

At least five jurors attended the sentencing; the group of 12 took four hours to convict Crenshaw of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder July 27.

Eitzen sentenced the recovering heroin addict from Las Vegas to two consecutive life terms this afternoon, the only punishment available other than the death penalty, which prosecutors already ruled out. 

Eitzen said she felt the grief in this case “more acutely than I have before, ever.”

“To look at the mothers, and to see the pain on Ms. Pehl and Mrs. Clark’s faces for all these weeks, it was an extraordinary experience in my life,” the judge said.

“I can’t make it any better,” she said. I can’t give you closure. There isn’t any. There won’t be any.”

Etizen said that anyone who sat through the trial “won’t forget.”

“That’s all I have to tell you, that nobody will forget,” she said.

Eitzen said her sympathy extends to Crenshaw.

“Because I think, Mr Crenshaw, you’re just, you’re a damaged person that you could find yourself in these circumstances,” Eitzen said. “I don’t know how someone could be that hurt and damaged. You’re so young. And I think it’s a terrible, terrible tragedy for anyone to sit in a courtroom…with someone your age and to look at the destruction and havoc that’s been caused by your behavior.”

She said she sentenced Crenshaw to lief terms because the law requires and “because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I think you are a dangerous person,” Etizen told Crenshaw. “I don’t say that with animosity or hatred.”

Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said the murder case was the most brutal he’d seen.

“I’d look at the pictures, I’d have to go for long walks just because it was horrible,” Driscoll said.

Crenshaw sentencing on break till 1:30

The sentencing of convicted double murderer Justin Crenshaw will continue at 1:30 p.m.

Judge Tari Eitzen requested the break after more than 2 1/2 hours of emotional testimony from grieving family and friends of Sarah A. Clark, 18, and Tanner E. Pehl, 20, who Crenshaw, now 22, stabbed to death on Feb. 28, 2008. A few more people are expected to speak, and Crenshaw will have a chance to address the court.

State law allows only two punishments for aggravated first-degree murder, of which Crenshaw was convicted of July 27: The death penalty or life in prison without parole. Prosecutors already decided not to seek the death penalty.

The packed courtroom this morning included at least four jurors from the two-week trial. Testimony came from Pehl and Clark’s parents, their siblings, other relatives and close friends, including Clark’s piano teacher of five years.

Tanner’s aunt described how surreal it is to hear Tanner’s grandmother say that visiting his grave “is part of her routine.”

She said “she visits Tanner’s grave every couple of days because that’s what grandmas should do.”

“No,” Tanner’s aunt said. “That’s not what grandmas should do.”

Tanner’s aunt ended with a message for Crenshaw, who sat next to his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, wearing a blue jail jumper and sporting newly buzzed hair and scruffy facial hair.

“Justin you’ve taken two precious lives and I hope you suffer the rest of your life,” she said. “I hope you have nightmares the rest of your pathetic life…I do not believe you deserve the air you breathe….Long after the world has turned its back on you, Tanner and Sarah’s memory will live on.”

Sarah’s sister, Emily Gant, said Crenshaw not only murdered Sarah and Tanner, “he also murdered what would have been our lives.” She cited what her mother, Teesha Clark, said after the July 27 verdict: “The murders gave us a life sentence, and he deserves no less.”

Gant said Crenshaw “shows no remorse” and displays an “arrogant smile for the friends and families of Sarah Clark and Tanner Pehl.” Teesha Clark said her life has become consumed with thoughts of her daughter’s murder, and irrational fear that her five other children may be hurt.

Losing her child to such horrific violence “has become my living nightmare.”

Tanner’s brother-in-law, a deputy with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said he was working as a police officer in Medical Lake when he learned of a fire at the Pehl home on TV. Soon, he and his wife learned of Tanner’s death, and he saw the crime scene. The bloody scene was “just like out of a horror film.”

“It brings me peace that you will be in there forever, never having the opportunity to crush two families again,” he said.

Sarah’s father, Steve Clark, described harrowing grief. “It’s agonizing, debilitating, incomprehensible grief…It makes you dizzy,” he said. “You can never understand it unless you experience it yourself.”

“I try not to think about her pain from the stab wounds; her screaming,” Clark said. “How cold someone do that to another person?”

A close friend of Sarah’s told Eitzen that she spoke with Sarah about Crenshaw a few days before the murder.

“She told me Justin was receiving a new start in the midst of her world, and she was eager to give that to him. She invested her heart into helping him start over,” she said. “…Evil now has a face, and he is unremorseful.”

Tanner’s sister, Katie Pehl (pictured left with brothers Matt and Cameron after the verdict last week,) recalled a conversation Tanner told her he’d had with Crenshaw. Tanner had said he wanted to donate his organs if he died. Crenshaw apparently felt differently.

“Not me,” Katie Pehl recalled Crenshaw saying. “When I die, I’m taking all my s**t with me.”

Katie Pehl told Crenshaw she hopes to someday forgive him.

“That is something I will try for the rest of my life,” Pehl said. “I know that’s what Tanner would want me to do.”

Vigil set for bridge murder victim’s birthday

A candlelight vigil will be held Friday for the victim of an unsolved homicide under the Sunset Bridge near High Bridge Park. 

Friends and family of William P. “Bill” Pickard scheduled the vigil to coincide with what would have been his 39th birthday. 

Pickard’s brother, Daniel Pickard, of Chico, Calif., helped create a memorial fund to help Pickard’s teenage stepson and daughters.

Send donations to the Golden One Credit Union, 239 W. 2nd St., Chico, CA 95928. Include account number 1167448. The vigil is scheduled from 7:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Spokane police still are looking for clues in Pickard murder. They believe Pickard, who was studying to be a drug counselor, was alive when his killer, or killers, threw him from the bridge, said Lt. Dave McGovern.

Pickard told his family he was going to a bar June 29, the night before his body was found, but staff said he never showed up. His car was found in the 1500 block of West Glass Avenue the next day.

McGovern said detectives recovered a fingerprint, but it belonged to a family acquaintance who was quickly ruled out as a suspect.

Pickard’s close friend, Bobby Caruso, said Pickard had a methadone prescription that he refilled each week, but that his supply was missing after his murder. McGovern said investigators are considering all aspects of the case.

Anyone with information on his murder should call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Crenshaw to be sentenced today for murders

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Double murderer Justin Crenshaw is to be sentenced this morning by Judge Tari Eitzen.

The hearing, set to begin at 9:30 a.m. could last about two hours. Family and friends of victims Sarah A. Clark, 18, and Tanner E. Pehl, 20, are expected to speak, as are members of Crenshaw’s family.

Crenshaw’s mother and grandmother attended the two-week trial, which ended when 12 jurors convicted the 22-year-old of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder on July 27. Crenshaw has been in Spokane County Jail since Feb. 29, 2008, one day after he stabbed Clark and Pehl to death in Pehl’s home at 512 E. Elm Road, then torched the home.

The only punishment for aggravated first-degree murder in Washington state is the death penalty or life in prison without parole; prosecutors already have decided not to seek the death penalty.

So the pressing question this morning is: What will Crenshaw say?

Eitzen will give the young man a chance to address the court before she sentences him.

The California native, who moved to Las Vegas as a young teen or preteen and is a recovering heroin addict, has spoken to her at court hearings against the wishes of attorneys, including a rejected request just before the trial to undergo a test in which he drinks alcohol and an expert analyzes how drunk he becomes .

Four months after his arrest, he successfully asked Eitzen for a new attorney, saying an employee with the public defender’s office is close friends with Clark’s family.

Crenshaw maintained his innocence early on, but he never denied his responsibility at the trial. His lawyer, Spokane County prosecutor candidate Chris Bugbee, told jurors Crenshaw suffers from a rare alcohol disorder that cause bizarre and violent behavior and asked for a manslaughter conviction.

Jurors took about four hours to reject that argument last week. Check my Twitter page for occasional updates from the courtroom.

Past coverage:

July 27: Crenshaw guilty of ‘08 double murder

July 27: Crenshaw murder trial heads to jury

July 12: Killer: Trust no one, broken hearts, knives

Justin Crenshaw in 2008: ‘I didn’t do it’

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“Right now, everyone’s looking at me like I’m guilty.”

Justin Crenshaw told a reporter that in July 2008, nearly five months after the brutal slayings of 20-year-old Tanner E. Pehl and 18-year-old Sarah Clark. 

“It’s hard to look at people with them thinking I’m guilty of taking their son or daughter’s life, when I didn’t do it,” he said after a court hearing attended by the victims’ families. “I can’t even imagine how they feel. As much as I got to know them, they (Clark and Pehl) were great people.”

Two years later, Crenshaw faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole after a jury convicted him of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.

The 22-year-old never denied his responsibility for the deaths of Clark and Pehl during the two-week trial.

But he blamed a rare alcohol disorder, and his lawyer, Spokane County prosecutor candidate Chris Bugbee, argued he couldn’t have premeditated the crimes. 

  It took a jury of five men and seven women about four hours to reject that claim on Tuesday. Family and friends of Pehl and Clark cried after the verdict and shared hugs. (Tanner’s sister, Katie, is pictured hugging Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll.)

Crenshaw has been in the Spokane County Jail since the day after the murder.

He’s had several attorneys and successfully argued for his case to be transferred from the county public defender’s office because Clark’s family is close friends with an office investigator. 

Crenshaw, described by a childhood friend after his arrest as “the nicest, sweetest guy”, served 18 months for an assault conviction in Nevada after he stabbed a man in the neck.

In June, Judge Tari Eitizen rejected a request from Crenshaw to allow him to undergo a test in which he drinks alcohol and an expert analyzes his bizarre or violent tendencies. Eitzen also had to order Crenshaw to be examined by an expert for the prosecution after he refused to meet with the doctor.

Crenshaw will be sentenced to life in prison next Thursday.

Check out our full coverage of the case: 

July 27: Crenshaw guilty of ‘08 double murder

July 27: Crenshaw murder trial heads to jury

July 22: Crenshaw’s defense calls two witnesses

July 13: Jurors see swords used in double slaying

July 12: Killer: Trust no one, broken hearts, knives

July 12: Crenshaw double-murder trial begins today

Defense calls murder case ‘classic cover-up’

COLVILLE – Defense attorney Mark Vovos on Monday told a jury of Stevens County residents that the murder trial they are about to decide amounts to a “classic cover-up” by detectives who willingly bought the shaky story of a co-defendant.

But Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dale Nagy said 57-year-old Christopher Devlin killed a longtime-friend, 52-year-old Daniel Heily, who was just about to testify against Devlin in a trial where he was charged with breaking into Heily’s home and assaulting him on Aug. 2, 2007.

“Mr. Devlin told people that he was looking at four to eight months in prison if he was convicted in that case,” Nagy said. “He told people, ‘Mr. Heily will be 6 six feet under before I ever go to jail.’”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mix up takes death penalty off the table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Prosecutor: Crenshaw is a sociopathic killer

Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker once told a reporter that questions about motive contributed to his decision not to seek the death penalty against Justin W. Crenshaw.

Investigators initially suspected Sarah Clark’s growing interest in Tanner Pehl may have motivated Crenshaw to kill, but testimony never pointed to that.  (In fact, witnesses said Pehl was excited about an upcoming date with a new girl.)

During his closing argument on Monday, Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll told jurors motive has no bearing in a first-degree murder case but suggested Crenshaw became enraged because Clark wasn’t interested in having sex with him.

But Crenshaw’s lawyer, Chris Bugbee, said there is no motive for the crimes, because Crenshaw didn’t have the ability to think about what he was doing.

The ransacked Pehl home showed signs of Crenshaw’s bizarre behavior: family photos were overturned and candles were stacked from smallest to largest.

Driscoll didn’t explain the candles but offered a simple explanation for the overturned photos: “He knew what he was doing was wrong, and he didn’t want those people looking at him.”

Bugbee said Crenshaw suffers from a rare disorder called pathological intoxication, or alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication, that causes bizarre and sometimes violent behavior.

But Driscoll said the explanation is a bit more simple: Crenshaw is a sociopath.

“He lacks a conscience,” Driscoll said. “The crime scene photos show you that.”

The question for the jury of five men and seven women: Were the murders premeditated?

Bugbee, who urged jurors to convict Crenshaw of first-degree manslaughter, said the possibility of Crenshaw having the disorder is enough to raise reasonable doubt. Jurors also have the option of a second-degree murder conviction.

Driscoll, who asked for a conviction of aggravated first-degree murder, reminded jurors that Crenshaw chose to fetch a knife from the kitchen, constituting premeditation.

“It doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan. It doesn’t have to be a good plan. It doesn’t have to be a well thought out plan. It just has to be that moment in time when you decide you’re going to do it,” Driscoll said.

Bugbee pointed to testimony from Crenshaw’s aunt, Kate Crenshaw, who said her nephew told her he was the happiest he’d ever been the day before the murders.

“Is he just somebody, who, on the happiest day of his life, just decided in a very horrendous and gruesome fashion, to kill two of the only people he could consider friends in Spokane, Washington?” Bugbee said. “Or does it make sense that his brain was overcome with this condition?”

Read much more from the closing arguments in my story here: Grisly double-murder case goes to jury

The jury reconvenes in the morning. I’ll update my Twitter page as soon as I hear a verdict has been reached.

Past coverage:

July 22: Crenshaw: You can call 911 after I leave

July 13: Jurors see swords used in double slaying

July 12: Killer: Trust no one, broken hearts, knives

July 12: Crenshaw double-murder trial begins today

Crenshaw murder case to go to jury today

A Spokane County jury is expected to begin deliberating this afternoon in the case of confessed killer Justin Crenshaw.

Crenshaw faces life in prison without parole if convicted of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the Feb. 28, 2008 s

tabbing deaths of 20-year-old Tanner E. Pehl and 18-year-old Sarah A. Clark. His defense law

yer, Chris Bugbee says the 22-year-old suffers from a rare disorder that causes him to behavior bizarrely after drinking alcohol and is asking the jury to convict him of a lesser offense like second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin today at 9:30 a.m., but delays in getting jury instructions ready pushed them to this afternoon after 1:30 p.m.

Family and friends of Clark and Pehl have been at the courthouse since early this morning, as well Crenshaw’s grandmother, Sandy Morningstar, and mother, who are here from Las Vegas.

Past coverage:

July 22: Crenshaw: You can call 911 after I leave

July 13: Jurors see swords used in double slaying

July 12: Killer: Trust no one, broken hearts, knives

July 12: Crenshaw double-murder trial begins today

2 recent Spokane homicides, few clues

Police continue to hunt for clues in the recent murders of two Spokane men - one a gang member and the other an aspiring drug counselor with a methadone prescription.

 Longtime friend Bobby Caruso said William P. “Bill” Pickard (left), who was found dead under the Sunset Bridge June 30, had a methadone prescription that he refilled each week. He’d had the prescription for three or four years “to help wean him off other drugs,” Caruso said.

Caruso said Pickard’s methadone supply was missing after his body was found and wonder if drug addicts knew of his supply.

“Word travels fast in those dark underworld circles,” Caruso said. 

Spokane police Lt. Dave McGovern said detectives are looking at all aspects of the case as they continue to piece together Pickard’s final hours.

Detectives believe Pickard was alive when his killer, or killers, threw him from the bridge, McGovern said.

Pickard, 38, told his family he was going to a bar the night before his body was found, but staff said he never showed up. His car was found in the 1500 block of West Glass Avenue the next day. Police said they recovered a fingerprint, but it belonged to a family acquaintance who was quickly ruled out as a suspect. 

Another murder still under investigation is the shooting death of Nathan D. “Trigger” Gilstrap, 29, (right) on July 13.

A woman who lives at 2105 W. Boone woke to gunfire, but she didn’t see vehicles or anyone other than Gilstrap when she looked out her window.

Police have no witnesses to Gilstrap’s murder, and no description of a possible getaway vehicle.

Gilstrap is described by police as a gang member with several enemies.

Anyone with information on the murders of Pickard or Gilstrap is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Accused witness killer on trial in Colville

Opening statements are expected today in the case of a Deer Park man accused of murdering a witness in an assault case against him.

Christopher H. Devlin had faced the death penalty for the May 2008 shooting death of Daniel D. Heily, 52, of Chattatory, but a judge took it off the table last February because of mismanagement by prosecutors.

Devlin now faces life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of aggravated first-degree murder.

A co-defendant, Carl A. Hoskins, had faced the same charge but has been offered a plea deal for second-degree assault if he testifies against Devlin. He left jail on Aug. 31 and will be sentenced to 27 months in prison with credit for time served if he continues cooperating, according to court documents.

Heily, who was disabled, disappeared on May 13, 2008, the night before he was to testify against Devlin at a second-degree assault trial.

Heily’s body was found in the cab of his pickup truck behind a Deer Park liquor store the next day. Hoskins and Devlin were arrested that night. The slaying qualified for the death penalty because the victim was a state witness.

A jurisdictional squabble broke out between Stevens and Spokane counties regarding where the murder took place. Spokane County prosecutors are handling the case, but the trial will be held before a Stevens County jury in Colville.

Family: Murder-suicide suspect was unstable

The man who fatally shot his ex-fiancée and her 9-year-old son in Spokane Valley this week had been suicidal in the past and owned several guns, new court documents say.

Jan R. DeMeerleer’s brother-in-law, John F. Schweitzer, told police DeMeerleer (pictured) “is bipolar and you never know what he is going to do,” according to a warrant used to search DeMeerleer’s home at 8324 E. Briant Lane on Sunday.

“Schweitzer said that he knows Jan DeMeerleer has been suicidal in the past,” according to the warrant prepared by Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Michael Drapeau and filed this week in District Court. “Schweitzer told (detectives) that if DeMeerleer has not committed suicide ‘he soon will.’”

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

July 20: Credit union to match donations after slaying

July 20: Homicide victim had overcome much

July 19: Suspect found dead after 2 killed, 1 injured

Crenshaw: You can call 911 after I leave

When admitted killer Justin Crenshaw stabbed a friend in 2004, he did so after his friend refused to drive him to buy methamphetamine from a man named Spike. 

Crenshaw, who served 18 months for the attack, stabbed the teen in the upper shoulder as he tried to walk away, then handed the friend a towel to control the bleeding.

After the victim pleaded for Crenshaw to leave him alone, the killer grabbed his car keys and said, “You can call 911 after I leave,” according to court testimony.

Psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Larsen testified about that incident Wednesday as one of just two witnesses for Crenshaw’s defense.

The 22-year-old is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of Tanner E. Pehl, 20; and Sarah A. Clark, 18; on Feb. 28, 2008.

The charges carry life in prison without parole; defense lawyer Chris Bugbee will ask juror to convict him of a lesser charge like manslaughter.

The defense hinges on the argument that Crenshaw, who started using drugs and alcohol at age or 12 or 13, suffers from a disorder known as pathological intoxication, or alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication.

Along with a childhood friend who spoke of a strange incident with Crenshaw as a teen, Larsen spoke of another incident at a casino where Crenshaw was beating his own head with a rock and then put a knife to his throat and threatened to kill himself while claiming that his girlfriend had broken up with him.

A friend later told authorities that Crenshaw was mistaken – that the girlfriend had not ended the relationship.

Read Thomas Clouse’s story on the defense case, which ended Wednesday, here. 

An expert for the prosecution is expected to testify today to refute Larsen’s testimony. Closing arguments are expected Monday, then the jury gets the case.

Past coverage:

July 20: Crenshaw defense could begin this week

July 13: Jurors see swords used in double slaying

July 12: Killer: Trust no one, broken hearts, knives

July 12: Crenshaw double-murder trial begins today