COLVILLE, Wash. - KHQ was the only news station in Stevens County Court Monday morning, as the 10-year-old boy charged in the February plot to kill classmates pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, juvenile in possession of a firearm, and tampering with a witness.
The plea entry came as a surprise during what was supposed to be a regular status hearing ahead of trial. Defense lawyer Helen Hokom passionately argued for not only plea entry, but also sentencing Monday, telling the judge her client said, "I'm just trying to make my future better, and I can't do that in Martin Hall," referring to the juvenile detention center in Medical Lake where he, and the 11-year-old charged in the case, have been held for the last two months. Hokom also said "my people just want to move on," and "he's tired and depressed, we just want this to be done."
However, Judge Allen Neilson said, "I wouldn't be doing my job" in letting both plea entry and sentencing happen Monday, as additional sentencing factors have yet to be figured out. Judge Neilson did allow the 10-year-old to enter guilty pleas, after confirming with Hokom that the boy understood what that meant, and that the boy's father agreed to the process. The boy recalled for the judge, "I was going to stand guard with a pistol while he killed her."
When asked what he was going to do with the pistol, the boy replied, "scare people." The boy also spoke about charge of tampering with a witness, as he planned to pay off a classmate who knew about the plan: "I would give him $20 to keep him quiet so he wouldn't tell anybody," the boy told the judge.
The boy never apologized for his role in the plan to kill fellow 5th grade students at Fort Colville Elementary; a plot that was discovered just hours before it was to be carried out at the first recess on February 7th. The boys face a minimum of 2 years in prison, plus likely a year of probation upon release.
However, prosecutors officially asked for "manifest justice," meaning the charges in the case necessitate a longer sentence. The 10-year-old's father also spoke before the Judge Monday, saying, "I don't think I can get my head around how long that long is, I'm 51 and I'd prefer he not be that old." The "manifest justice" sentence can last until the boys turn 21, roughly a decade from now.
In court, we also learned the family of the 10-year-old boy is thinking about moving out of Colville to the west side of the state, and referenced the Echo Glen Children's Center in Snoqualmie.
It is a DSHS medium/maximum security treatment facility that offers behavior therapy and anger replacement training among other things. The 10-year-old will be sentenced on April 22nd. The 11-year-old boy also charged in the case will be back in court April 15th.