A Whitman County Superior Court jury deliberated all day Monday, and convicted an Endicott, Wash., man of first-degree murder for shooting a man he considered a romantic rival.
The jury also convicted Erik Hugo Zettergren, 37, of second-degree assault for pointing a gun at a woman, and of unlawful imprisonment for forcing her to help dispose of 32-year-old Jason Robinson’s body. And jurors found that each of the crimes was committed with a firearm, which will add more than 10 years to Zettergren’s prison term.
Zettergren was convicted as charged, except that Prosecutor Denis Tracy sought a first-degree kidnapping conviction instead of unlawful imprisonment.
Information on Zettergren’s sentencing range was not immediately available, but first-degree murder carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. Judge David Frazier is to pass sentence in about a month.
According to court documents, the murder occurred about 4:30 a.m. Feb. 13 at Zettergren’s home. He had invited Carmen Morris, whom he considered his girlfriend, and another couple to his home to continue an evening of drinking that began the previous evening at another house.
The assault victim, Heather M. Euley, told sheriff’s investigators she was Robinson’s fiancée.
Euley said Morris was highly intoxicated when they arrived at Zettergren’s home about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 12, and she put Morris in Zettergren’s bed with Zettergren’s help. While helping put Morris to bed, Euley saw Zettergren remove a pistol from under a pillow.
Then, Euley told deputies, Robinson vomited and passed out in the bathroom. She said she and Zettergren put Robinson in bed, too.
Euley said she was changing a CD in the living room when she heard a “muffled thump,” and heard Morris making a commotion as though she were upset. When Euley investigated, she saw Robinson lying on the floor in a pool of blood, according to court documents.
While Zettergren took Morris to her home, Euley tried to resuscitate Robinson and realized he had been shot. Euley said she asked Zettergren what he had done when he returned, and he said he shot Robinson because he was trying to rape Morris.
“He took advantage of my old lady,” Euley quoted Zettergren.
Morris told investigators she remembered Robinson pressing against her with his pants off. Later, Morris said, she heard Robinson say, “If you’re going to do it, do it,” and then she heard a gunshot.
Euley told authorities that, after Zettergren told her what he had done, he put his semiautomatic pistol to her head and told her to be quiet.
“I told him to go to hell at first,” she told detectives. “I wasn’t thinking clearly, and then all of a sudden it occurred to me that this guy is going to shoot me.”
Court documents say Zettergren forced Euley to help him dump Robinson’s body into the Palouse River and to clean up the murder scene.
An autopsy showed Robinson died of a single bullet to the head.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.