Terry Loukaitis saw the look in his son’s bloodshot eyes - a look of “cold fury” - and recoiled in fright.
“He was a completely different person. I was shocked, horrified,” the Moses Lake man testified Thursday, his voice quaking with emotion.
“I didn’t know what to think. It was like the whole thing was a nightmare. It was as if all of this stuff that had been boiling up inside of him all of a sudden started coming out.”
The eruption came the afternoon of Feb. 2, when 14-year-old Barry Loukaitis stepped into his fifth-period algebra class at Frontier Junior High School and started firing his father’s hunting rifle.
The rampage ended when a physical education teacher grabbed the boy and the gun. By then, the classroom was splattered with blood. Two classmates and a teacher were dead; a third student was wounded.
Later that day, Terry Loukaitis told police there was nothing wrong with his son, but when he visited Barry behind bars, he knew it was a lie.
“He was scary looking,” he said Thursday at a hearing to determine if the boy will face aggravated murder charges as a juvenile or an adult.
The confessed killer’s mother also took the witness stand. In a quiet voice, she detailed her son’s two-year slide into angry isolation.
When Barry was in sixth grade, JoAnn Loukaitis said, he was a happy kid - brighter than most, popular, with a flair for writing.
“He was really friendly; he was outgoing,” she said. “He was in student council; he had friends that came over a lot.”
But the next fall, when he started seventh grade at Frontier, things started to change. “He didn’t have friends over as much anymore. He started slowly backing away from people,” his mother said.
JoAnn Loukaitis, 47, clutched a tissue, stared at her lap and said she understands because she long has suffered from depression. When her marriage began falling apart, dissolving into fistfights and curses, she said, some of the fallout wounded Barry, who then was about 12.
By eighth grade, Barry had become so withdrawn, gloomy and angry that his parents had to order him to do fun things, such as go to the movies.
“He just totally isolated himself,” she said. “It was like all of the sudden he didn’t like people; he didn’t trust people; he thought all people were bad.”
Those feelings intensified a couple of weeks before the shootings, when JoAnn Loukaitis, who had just filed for divorce, revealed her plan to kill herself in front of her husband and his suspected lover.
She said Barry urged her not to do it. “Mom, just write about it,” she said he told her. “That way, you’ll get it off your chest. … I don’t want you to die.”
Afterward, the teenager avoided his parents, he ate in his room - if he ate at all - and he slept away much of the day.
JoAnn Loukaitis said her son didn’t snap out of his depression until he was prescribed lithium a couple of months after his arrest. “He started being like the old Barry, who was fun to be with,” she said.
Defense attorney Guillermo Romero later called his third mental health expert, Seattle psychologist Kenneth Muscatel.
While Muscatel ruled out full-blown psychosis, he described Barry Loukaitis as “one of the strangest kids I’ve ever met.” He found the boy, now 15, to be angry, detached and depressed - warning signs of suicide, not murder.
During cross-examination by Grant County Prosecutor John Knodell, Muscatel said Loukaitis’ preparation for the shooting, such as stockpiling ammunition and weapons and buying a trench coat to hide the rifle, required sophistication.
In previous testimony for the defense, a psychiatrist and a psychologist said Loukaitis was mentally ill and wouldn’t have resorted to violence if he’d been properly treated.
Spokane psychologist Mark Mays said the boy was suffering from depression brought on by his troubled home life. Psychiatrist Julia Moore of Federal Way, Wash., went further, diagnosing the teenager as having a bipolar personality disorder - depression combined with unrelenting anger and mood swings.
That was challenged late Thursday by University of Washington psychology professor Alan Unis, the prosecution’s first rebuttal witness.
Unis found Loukaitis to be mentally ill, but not bipolar. The witness said Loukaitis is too young to have that disorder because his personality hasn’t fully developed.
Loukaitis, who has no prior criminal record, is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. Killed were classmates Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz and teacher Leona Caires. Student Natalie Hintz was wounded. Testimony is expected to conclude today.
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