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Teenager describes killing of playmate

Jake Eakin testifies in Grant County Superior Court on Friday in Ephrata, Wash., at the first-degree murder trial of Evan Savoie. Savoie is accused of killing 13-year-old Craig Sorger in 2003. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jake Eakin testifies in Grant County Superior Court on Friday in Ephrata, Wash., at the first-degree murder trial of Evan Savoie. Savoie is accused of killing 13-year-old Craig Sorger in 2003. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Shannon Dininny Associated Press

EPHRATA, Wash. – In chilling detail Friday, a teenager described how his best friend brutally attacked a playmate three years ago, repeatedly knocking him to the ground and hitting him while the victim, struggling to escape, cried out that he was dying.

Jake Eakin, 15, testified for a little more than two hours in the first-degree murder trial of his friend, Evan Savoie, also 15. Savoie is being tried as an adult in the Feb. 15, 2003, slaying of Craig Sorger, a special education student.

Sorger, 13, was found beaten and stabbed 34 times in an Ephrata recreational vehicle park.

Wearing handcuffs, eyeglasses and slicked-back, shoulder-length hair, a pale Eakin trembled at times as he described from the witness stand the rainy day he and Savoie went to the park to play. At one point, Savoie pulled a knife out of his pocket and told Eakin he “wanted to go on a killing spree.”

Minutes later, the boys went to Sorger’s nearby travel trailer, where his family was living, to ask him to play. Eakin said they roamed the park, playing near a canal, for several minutes before stopping to build a fort in a wooded area.

Savoie then asked Sorger to feel the ground to see if it was wet. He told Sorger to touch the ground for 10 seconds; Sorger got on his knees and began counting to 10. At nine, Savoie dropped a rock the “size of a basketball” on the back of Sorger’s neck, knocking the boy to the ground, Eakin said.

Eakin paused as he recalled the look of pain on Sorger’s face, taking his only long look at Savoie. Savoie did not glance up from writing on a legal pad.

“I got up and tried to stop him. I just told him, I just got up and I was like, ‘Stop,’ ” Eakin said. “He pushed me.”

Savoie then began hitting Sorger – perhaps more than 30 times, Eakin said. Several times Sorger tried to get away, crying out, “Why are you doing this to me?” but Savoie repeatedly pulled him back to the ground and continued striking him. Eakin said he didn’t see anything in Savoie’s hand, but did see blood coming from Savoie’s neck as the boy cried out.

“He was saying that he was dying,” Eakin said. “He was face down. Evan was on top on his knees.”

The attack lasted just minutes, after which Sorger remained motionless on the ground, Eakin said. Looking down at his hands on his lap, and flushing slightly, Eakin then recounted how he picked up a stick and began hitting Sorger in the head and legs more than 20 times before throwing the stick to the ground.

Savoie said nothing, Eakin said. “He walked to me and he shook my hand.”

Eakin is the key witness in the prosecution’s case against Savoie, who could face a maximum of 26 years in prison if convicted.

Eakin and Savoie spent months proclaiming their innocence, first saying they had last seen Sorger walking toward home from the park. They later said Sorger had fallen from a tree.

After the attack, Savoie threw something in the pond, Eakin said, then washed his clothes and hands, face and hair in the water. He said Savoie left a shirt and sweat shirt in the pond.

Walking home, Savoie mentioned that the police would probably talk to them, Eakin said.

“We just came up with a plan, that we would tell the police we were playing football and that Craig went home,” he said.

Defense attorney Randy Smith questioned him for only about 40 minutes, clarifying that Eakin never saw a knife in Savoie’s hand.

Smith also focused only briefly on Eakin’s repeated story changes during the investigation. In 2004, when a plea deal was mentioned, Eakin altered his account, saying he had stepped away to buy a soda and returned to the wooded area to find Savoie attacking Sorger.

Eakin again changed his story a year later, pleading guilty to second-degree murder by complicity and pointing the finger at Savoie. He was sentenced to 14 years – six years longer than recommended by prosecutors.

“I wanted to tell the truth,” he said under questioning from Smith. “That me and Evan killed Craig Sorger.”

Asked if he was angry he received a longer sentence, Eakin said, “No. I deserved it.”

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