One of four teenagers charged in the shooting deaths of an elderly farm couple pleaded guilty Monday, sparing himself the possibility of a life prison term.
Adam Bentancourt, who originally had been charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, pleaded guilty in Grant County Superior Court to first-degree murder as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
The agreement means the Quincy, Wash., teen will face a sentencing range of 40 to 52 years in prison instead of the life term without parole he would have faced if convicted of the more serious count.
Bentancourt is scheduled to undergo psychological tests before he is sentenced Sept. 5. The youth had pleaded innocent May 27 and had been scheduled to go to trial Wednesday.
Prosecutor John Knodell said Bentancourt has agreed to testify against his three co-defendants in the May 21 slayings of Homer and Vada Smithson.
“This sort of thing puts the pressure on the other co-defendants to enter into some sort of resolution to the case that’s going to be favorable to us (the prosecution),” Knodell said.
A hearing to determine whether the three will be tried as adults is scheduled next Tuesday. The three - Marcus “David” Wawers, Melanie S. Hinkle and Donald E. Lambert - all are 15 and from Quincy.
Each is being held in juvenile detention in lieu of $1 million bail.
Because Bentancourt is 16, his case automatically was remanded to adult court.
The Smithsons - 89-year-old Homer and 88-year-old Vada - apparently were shot as part of a scheme to steal guns from their home and shoot up the home of an unidentified police officer, authorities have said.
Knodell has said the teens apparently were motivated in part by a grudge against Homer Smithson over some past employment.
Wawers lived in a trailer less than a half-mile from the Smithsons.
Wawers is charged with two counts of complicity to commit aggravated first-degree murder; Hinkle, with two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary; and Lambert, with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
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