Richland murder suspect uncomfortable with judge in case

January 15, 2014 

— An evidence hearing for a Richland murder suspect was postponed Wednesday after testimony revealed the judge's stepson helped investigate the case.

Judge Carrie Runge said she had no idea her stepson, Detective Scott Runge is involved in the homicide investigation of suspect Joshua H. Hunt. The detective is with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Judge Runge declined to step down from the case, saying she believed the detective’s limited involvement in the investigation means she can be fair and impartial.

Hunt’s attorney, Shane Silverthorn, asked for more time to review the matter. The hearing is rescheduled for Friday.

Hunt, 19, is accused of killing Josh Snapp on July 4. He and another man, John C.I. Young, 19, are charged with first-degree murder.

Snapp, 17, was shot three times in the chest and head, according to authorities. His body was found in a remote area in Richland.

Deputies and detectives who helped arrest and question Hunt took the stand Wednesday morning. The hearing was to determine if certain evidence will be allowed at Hunt’s trial Feb. 10.

Testimony given by Benton County Detective Larry Smith mentioned Detective Runge.

Smith told the court Runge asked him to review video surveillance from the Benton City gas station where Hunt and Young were arrested.

After witnesses were done testifying, Judge Runge told Silverthorn that the detective was her stepson. Silverthorn asked for a short recess to talk with Hunt.

Hunt did not feel comfortable with the judge being related to a detective in the case, Silverthorn said. Silverthorn will discuss filing an affidavit of prejudice to change judges.

Prosecutor Andy Miller said in court he doesn’t think Judge Runge’s relationship with the detective was enough for her to step aside. He argued that the detective’s role in the case was minor.

“I just don’t see how he has any relevance to the investigation,” Miller said in court.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office initially investigated the homicide because the suspects were arrested in Benton City. Richland police took over the case after police discovered Snapp was killed in Richland.

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