Josh Snapp case: Shooting suspect gets new Seattle attorney

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJuly 19, 2013 

A Seattle attorney now representing one of the suspects in the July 4 shooting of Josh Snapp says there's "a complexity to this seemingly senseless death" and asks people to withhold judgment through the trial process.

John C.I. Young, 18, has hired John Crowley to handle his first-degree murder case in Benton County Superior Court.

The court previously had appointed Scott Johnson, a Kennewick lawyer, to the case.

A hearing is scheduled Tuesday before Judge Bruce Spanner to make Crowley's substitution official, according to court records.

Crowley did not return a call to the Herald on Friday.

However, the attorney has a blog post on his law firm's website announcing that he's now on the Richland case.

In the lengthy post, Crowley said the story of Young and co-defendant Joshua H. Hunt has received significant media attention, but the accounts have all differed somewhat. He said in horrific events "it is always a mistake" to put too much stock in early press reports or rely upon them for understanding of what happened.

"What is clear are the heartbreaking ramifications for the family and friends of the victim, as well as the families of the accused," Crowley wrote. "Perhaps it is the young age of the boys. Perhaps it is because they look like regular kids."

He continued: "As parents and members of the community where we live, we share the feelings and ask the question, 'How could this happen?' But we also must ask the question, 'What exactly happened?'"

It is rare for an attorney on a high-profile criminal case in the Tri-Cities to issue a statement publicly questioning the circumstances in advance of trial.

A former Snohomish County deputy prosecutor, the longtime criminal defense attorney's biography references his appearances on national television and a radio interview addressing the need for attorneys on high-profile cases to be media savvy.

According to police and search warrants filed in the case, Young and Hunt took the 17-year-old Snapp to a remote area near Horn Rapids Off-Road Vehicle Park some time between 4 and 5 a.m. July 4. They had been at an all-night party at a Richland home, and claimed they were going to smoke weed in the desert.

But Young and Hunt both allegedly had a beef with Snapp and planned to do something about it.

Hunt, 19, reportedly liked Snapp's girlfriend, claimed Snapp owed him money from a drug debt and believed the teen was going to tell the cops that Hunt was a drug dealer. Young had told a partygoer he thought Snapp was a snitch, the court documents said.

Hunt told detectives he got the revolver in mid-June in a trade involving $100 of marijuana, then went with Young to test fire it in the weeks before the shooting, documents said.

Then on the morning of the Fourth of July, two warning rounds were fired into the desert to let Snapp know the men meant business, then he was shot in the chest and head. The coroner has said any of the wounds could have been fatal.

In charging the pair with first-degree murder, Prosecutor Andy Miller alleges they acted with premeditated intent when they took turns shooting Snapp.

Snapp's body was left behind in the brush. But later that morning during their second visit to a Benton City gas station, Young told a convenience store employee that someone had just been shot.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the 911 call and found Hunt walking back to his car from the Yakima River, where he claimed he tossed a backpack with their shoes and the revolver, documents said. The pack was found in the river this Monday.

Hunt's car trunk allegedly contained two new shoe boxes in sizes that matched Hunt and Young. Police claim they changed into these shoes after the slaying.

Hunt was arrested at the gas station. Young originally was treated as a witness, but that changed after Hunt told detectives at the police station that his friend also shot Snapp, the search warrants show.

Both men gave lengthy statements to police, as is detailed in the warrant affidavits.

They both have pleaded innocent and are being held on $250,000 bail in the Benton County jail. Trials are set for Aug. 26, but those likely will be pushed out several months.

Crowley, in his blog post, said early media reports have contained characterizations that are completely wrong.

"There is a complexity to this seemingly senseless death that will certainly come out as this prosecution moves forward," he wrote. "The Crowley Law Firm is already positive of this."

Young has prior convictions in Benton County Juvenile Court for delivery of marijuana in 2011 and residential burglary in 2012. He has violated his probation multiple times while under supervision for the burglary conviction, failed to complete treatment and tested positive for marijuana and cocaine.

In an interview with the Herald earlier this week, Young's mother acknowledged her son's pot use and said an earlier brief stay with her ended because she didn't want marijuana in her house. Young lives in Richland with his father and stepmother.

Shanna Young, who lives in Texas, said she's still in shock about the murder allegations against the son she calls "Cameron."

"It has been absolutely the worst news a mother can get," she said. "... That was not my son that night. He's hurting. He has remorse. He has a heart."

Shanna Young acknowledged that she hadn't yet spoken to her son or her ex-husband when she talked to the Herald. She claims that her son "practically raised himself" and moved away with his father when 11, but adds that he was a good kid and questions if he was acting out for attention that morning more than two weeks ago.

"He's the most caring, giving person. He is just a wonderful child," she said.

Crowley's blog post cautions people that they aren't yet getting the complete story. He did link to two stories on the case -- one from the Herald, taken from sister paper The News-Tribune of Tacoma, and the other from KNDU TV's site.

"As the process moves towards a trial, many of these facts will become known so judgment should be withheld until the court process is complete and a verdict is rendered," Crowley said.

-- Staff writer Tyler Richardson contributed to this story.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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