Taped interview with alleged killer discloses details in death of Richland teen

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 14, 2014 

When his alleged killers fired two warning shots into the desert and accused him of being a snitch, Joshua Snapp realized he was "not in a good place" and pleaded for forgiveness, one of the suspects told detectives.

Joshua H. Hunt, on trial for the July 4 death, claimed the 17-year-old Richland boy denied being an informant, but confessed to stealing from Hunt and other people.

Snapp was told to sit down and "smoke a bowl" with Hunt and John C.I. Young. Then, just as Snapp was feeling OK about everything, Hunt took the revolver from Young, told Snapp to pray and shot him, Hunt said in his videotaped interview four hours later.

He recalled giving the gun back to his friend, who allegedly shot the moaning Snapp before the pair left and drove into Benton City.

Hunt initially showed little emotion as he stared straight at Benton County sheriff's Detectives Larry Smith and Lee Cantu during the one-hour 23-minute interview.

But after the investigators called Hunt out for his story and said it was time "to tell the truth," he cried as he went through the graphic details surrounding Snapp's slaying.

"What do you think should happen because of this? What would you like to happen?" Cantu asked.

Hunt replied that he should get "a second chance."

Jurors were given transcripts of the interview so they could follow along with the video since Hunt's responses often were inaudible.

The 19-year-old Richland man is charged in Benton County Superior Court with first-degree murder with the allegation a firearm was used.

Young, also 19, has a March 10 trial scheduled for first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say the crime involved premeditated intent.

Hunt allegedly got the gun weeks before in a trade with marijuana. The two teens also reportedly each had a second pair of shoes with them that morning so Hunt could toss the ones they'd been wearing in the Yakima River, along with the revolver inside a backpack.

Hunt's trial started Monday, though the first testimony was given Thursday morning.

Snapp was killed about 6 a.m. in a remote location near Horn Rapids. Hunt claims they got to the spot about an hour earlier and took the time to confront Snapp and smoke marijuana before killing him.

Defense attorney Shane Silverthorn suggested to jurors that his client had a diminished capacity from excessive drinking and drug use. He added that Hunt may have been sleep deprived because his summertime days and nights were spent partying with his friends at the river and in public parks.

In addition to marijuana, Hunt used to smoke methamphetamine.

Smith, however, said Hunt did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the interview.

Shea Smith, who described Hunt as a good friend, testified that the two met at the skate park and used to go swimming in the river. He said Hunt didn't really like Snapp "because he was a snitch and Josh owed him money."

When Prosecutor Andy Miller asked if Hunt ever told his friend before July 4 what he'd like to do to Snapp, Smith hesitated for a long time, grabbing his head and letting out a series of umms and uhhs.

"He just, uhh, I don't know. ... Can you ask me the question again?" said Smith, who acknowledged that he was nervous.

The second time around, Smith bowed his head as he replied, "He said in a joking manner at the time, he'd like to kill, I guess. I know it sounds bad but lots of people say it because people don't think it's serious."

Smith, of West Richland, was arrested Thursday evening on a material witness warrant, which was issued by Judge Carrie Runge after authorities lost contact with him and tried to touch base with Smith about his subpoena.

The warrant was quashed and Smith was released from custody after his testimony Friday.

Smith told jurors he's been a drug addict for years, and last summer "was getting drunk and high every day." He said that's how they all were when Hunt made the comments about Snapp, so it "didn't mean nothing."

Smith -- using Hunt's nickname of "R.J." -- said he later told Snapp that Hunt was going to beat him up.

Smith often looked at Hunt seated directly across from him. He told Miller that "no way" did he want to be there on the witness stand testifying against his friend.

Silverthorn questioned Smith about his drug use.

Smith said when he uses meth he stays up for weeks. "It's like there's nothing in the world that can bring me down. I'm happy," he said, but added that his thought process is never clear and he never knows what's going on.

Richland police Sgt. Darryl Judge said he got the call the morning of July 4 to investigate a dead body.

After arriving at the scene, he "saw a teenage male who appeared motionless" and parked 200 to 250 feet away so he wouldn't disturb any possible evidence.

Judge told the jury he first used binoculars to check the victim's condition and noticed the teen "appeared to suffer significant violence." He then went over to Snapp's body, which was in a sandy area beneath a berm, to check if he might have still been alive.

Scott Clemenson, a Richland firefighter and paramedic, then confirmed that Snapp had no pulse.

A sample of Snapp's blood was sent to the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Lab in Seattle for testing. Toxicologist Asa Louis said he found methamphetamine- and cannabis-class drugs.

The level of THC -- the main mind-altering drug in cannabis -- indicated that Snapp had been "exposed to marijuana most likely within the last three to five hours."

The methamphetamine in Snapp's system could have been from a prescription drug, Louis said, but the dose was 10 times higher than it should be for someone who is taking it therapeutically. Louis said it indicates meth was a recreational drug for Snapp.

The scientist couldn't answer if the level of drugs in Snapp was toxic and lethal, or if he "was going up or coming down" when he was killed. Louis added that if Snapp had used before, he could have built up a tolerance and needed more to achieve the levels he was desiring.

The trial is on recess until Tuesday because of Presidents Day.

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

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