School shooter Barry Loukaitis, who killed three people and wounded a fourth at a Moses Lake middle school in 1996, was resentenced on Wednesday to 189 years in prison.
Loukaitis, 36, was resentenced as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 that said people younger than 16 could not receive life sentences without parole. Loukaitis did not contest the new sentence sought by prosecutors and also waived his right to any future appeals.
Family members of the victims who died on Feb. 2, 1996, at Frontier Middle School told Grant County Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper about the pain Loukaitis’ rampage caused them. Several said at the hearing in Ephrata that having to speak about the shootings again more than 20 years later reopened old wounds.
Loukaitis, wearing handcuffs, directly addressed his victims and their family members for the first time, just before he was sentenced.
“I am sorry for what I did.” Loukaitis, who has graying hair and wore glasses, said. “What I did was weak and evil and senseless.”
Loukaitis said he did not have the tools at the age of 14 to deal with his anger and hatred toward others.
“I didn’t have the skills I needed to learn to be a man,” he said.
“It was never my intention to kill everyone in the classroom,” he added.
Gripping testimony also came from Natalie Hintz, who was 13 when Loukaitis shot her in the arm. She nearly died of her injuries.
“It is with disbelief and heavy heart that I am here today,” Hintz said of the resentencing process.
“I’ve relived the day I was shot over and over again,” Hintz said, adding that “my childhood ended” that day.
She endured years of physical therapy and still does not have the full use of her arm, Hintz said.
She recalled lying next to a dead classmate and watching Loukaitis shoot their teacher to death.
“Your sentence was to be final, like death is final,” Hintz said. “Today I am being victimized all over again.”
Loukaitis carried a hunting rifle and two handguns into his math class at Frontier Middle School. He shot and killed teacher Leona Caires, 49, and classmates Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 14. Hintz was wounded.
Teacher Jon Lane heard the gunshots and rushed to the classroom. He confronted and disarmed Loukaitis and then pinned him down until police arrived. Lane’s heroism likely prevented additional deaths.
But on Wednesday, Lane said he still had questions about the day.
“Why did you do it?” Lane asked of Loukaitis. “Why that day and that classroom?”
Manuel Vela Sr. told the judge he often wondered what his son would have been like as an adult.
“We’ll never know,” Vela said.
“He knew exactly what he was doing when he murdered our son,” Vela said of Loukaitis.
Alice Fritz, the mother of Arnold Fritz, remembered coming upon the body of her son in the hospital.
“I held his hand for a long time, sitting next to him,” she recalled. His hand was cold, she said.
Alice Fritz recalled that she went to visit Loukaitis in prison five years ago. She said she believed Loukaitis was genuinely contrite about the shootings.
But Victoria Kimble, a daughter of teacher Leona Caires, said she felt a deep hatred for Loukaitis.
She said her mother loved teaching math.
“She died with a piece of chalk in one hand and an eraser in the other,” Kimble said.
Cooper was the original judge in the case who came out of retirement to handle the new sentencing.
After the shootings, Loukaitis was tried as an adult in Seattle in an attempt to find an impartial jury. He claimed an insanity defense that was rejected by the jury and convicted in 1997.
In prison, Loukaitis has earned high school and college degrees and worked as a teacher’s aide.
“I appreciate Mr. Loukaitis’s words and his efforts in prison to better himself,” the judge said.
The judge also said he appreciated the strength of the people who testified on Wednesday, 21 years after the shootings.
“Perhaps it will bring some closure,” he said.
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