A visibly thinner Caleb Sharpe, who also has longer hair, appeared Friday before a Superior Court judge who instructed attorneys to make preparations to finally hold the hearing to determine whether the 17-year-old charged with killing a Freeman High School classmate will be tried as a juvenile or adult.
Wearing a blue shirt, khaki pull-up pants and orange slippers, Sharpe sat between attorneys Bevan and Morgan Maxey. Sharpe has been held in custody since witnesses said he brought his father’s AR-15 and a pistol into Freeman High School on Sept. 13, 2017, and fatally shot 15-year-old Sam Strahan.
The shooting also injured three girls. As a result, Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell charged Sharpe with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and more than 50 counts of second-degree assault for all the Freeman students who were present at the time of the shooting.
Superior Court Judge Michael Price has cleared the entire week of July 15 for the proceeding, which is called a declination hearing. Its importance to Sharpe is huge because the outcome could leave him facing a potential sentence of a few years if he is tried as a juvenile or life in prison if Price rules that he should be tried as an adult.
“I’m considering July 15 a hard and fast date,” Price told the attorneys, “unless the case resolves itself.”
Bevan Maxey said he intends to present expert testimony that he hopes will explain Sharpe’s state of mind at the time of the killing.
“We hope to demonstrate through evidence that Mr. Sharpe was a young man who was less mature than the average 15-year-old,” Maxey said after the hearing. “We expect to show that he was suffering from some abnormalities in his brain function and that the appropriate resolution should be that the case is handled in juvenile court.”
Price noted the case’s many delays. If the July 15 date holds, it will come just shy of two years since the shooting.
“Everyone would have liked to have resolved it sooner,” Maxey said. The delays were “necessitated by procedure and by being thorough.”
The judge previously ruled in May 2018 that he would allow Haskell to use statements that were recorded by Spokane County sheriff’s detectives Scott Bonney and Marc Melville, who interviewed Sharpe minutes after the Freeman shooting. They wrote that Sharpe told them about watching documentaries on past school shootings.
Sharpe “concluded that Eric (Harris) and Dylan (Klebold)” – the perpetrators of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 – “were stupid because they were ‘overblowing it so much.’ Sharpe said he began to like their plan more and more,” court documents state. “He watched about Sandy Hook and decided these people were not smart, because they killed themselves in the end.”
On the day of the shooting, Sharpe said he loaded an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle into a golf bag to conceal it. In his left pocket, he placed a .32-caliber handgun. Both guns “belonged to his father, and he took them without permission,” the detectives wrote.
Sharpe said he knew Sam Strahan and they had been friends, but they had drifted apart. Sharpe “had been building up anger at people for months, even years, and he had been thinking about doing this for two years,” detectives wrote.
The day before the shooting, Sharpe told detectives that he flipped a coin. If it came up tails, “he would not do it and never think about it again.”
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