Kootenai County Prosecutor William Douglas announced Tuesday he plans to pursue the death penalty for convicted murderer Stephen A. Cherry.
It’s the first time Douglas has sought the death penalty in his nine years as prosecutor, but also the only first-degree murder case to go to trial and result in a guilty verdict.
Last month, a jury found Cherry guilty of first-degree murder for the shooting death of Susan Foutz at her Hauser Lake home last June.
Cherry also was found guilty of aggravated battery and aggravated assault for wounding Charles Babb, a friend of Foutz’s, and threatening to kill Foutz’s roommate, Tammy Hoover.
“This request reflects the desires of Susan Foutz’s family,” Douglas said Tuesday. “We give great weight to their desires and wishes. They sat through the entire trial and witnessed the testimony for themselves.”
In his notice to seek the death penalty filed Tuesday in 1st District Court, Douglas argued that Cherry showed utter disregard for human life by intentionally shooting Foutz several times with a high powered rifle at close range.
He also argued Cherry would be a continued threat to society because of a pattern of jealous and abusive behavior toward women.
Cherry vandalized the home of his ex-wife after she filed for divorce, threatened to burn an old girlfriend’s house when she wouldn’t get back together with him and was the prime suspect in the stabbing of a Spokane woman he once dated, prosecutors argued.
“The consistency and escalation of his violence demonstrates his incorrigibility,” Douglas wrote. “Rather than diminishing his culpability, his rage demonstrates a continuing threat to society. His claims of impulse, rage or jealousy must be measured against evidence that he lay in wait, wounded Ms. Foutz, then executed her in a cold blooded, pitiless fashion.”
Cherry, who is in the Kootenai County Jail, insists he did not receive a fair trial and is the victim of a cover-up by the Sheriff’s Department. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Judge Gary Haman was the last to impose the death penalty in Kootenai County, in 1983 in the Donald Paradis case, Douglas said.
There have been few murder cases to go to trial and result in a first-degree murder verdict since then.
As of this month, however, there are four first-degree murder cases awaiting trial and one outstanding capital murder warrant.
“Times are certainly changing here in Kootenai County,” Douglas said. “It used to be we’d go a year to 18 months without any murder cases. Now we have this one, and we’ve got four more between now and November. We are no longer the sleepy little city by the lake.”
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