A trial court properly dismissed a lawsuit blaming Stevens County and the state Department of Corrections for a murder committed by a teenage felon while on probation, the state Court of Appeals in Spokane says in a decision released Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed by the estate of 17-year-old Newport, Wash., resident Matthew Davis, who was murdered in July 1999 by three Stevens County youths he met at a community festival in Chewelah, Wash.
The youths befriended Davis and invited him to go target shooting with them. Davis became the target, though, and his supposed friends shot him 27 times, stabbed him in the throat and urinated on his body – just for the thrill of killing someone, authorities concluded.
The apparent ringleader was Andrew D. “Drewcifer” Erickson, then 20, who publicly claimed to be a mentally disturbed Satan worshipper. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 75 years in prison.
Accomplices Aaron M. Dalager, 18 at the time of the crime, got 40 years. Richard E. Tullis, also 18, cooperated with authorities and was sentenced to 25 years.
Davis’ estate sued the state Department of Corrections and Stevens County for alleged failure to supervise Erickson adequately. Erickson was on probation for a car theft in January 1999, and reported suicidal feelings to his state probation officer before the murder.
The probation officer referred Erickson to a Stevens County mental health counselor for an evaluation in which Erickson denied being suicidal or violent. The probation officer referred Erickson to a counseling program, but the Davis murder occurred within weeks.
The Court of Appeals said neither the probation officer nor the county mental health counselor had a “definite, established and continuing relationship” that would create a legal responsibility for Erickson’s actions.
The decision was made in April, but wasn’t officially “published” until Thursday. State and county officials asked the court to publish the ruling so it can be used as a precedent in similar cases.
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