Teen murder suspect takes the witness stand (w/videos)

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 20, 2014 

— Joshua H. Hunt sobbed as he testified Thursday about pointing a revolver at a Richland teen’s chest and pulling the trigger.

Hunt, 19, told a Benton County jury that his heavy drug and alcohol use hours before the shooting clouded his judgment.

“I was the highest I’ve ever been,” said Hunt when he took the stand in his first-degree murder trial to tell a Benton County jury about the day Josh Snapp was killed.

Hunt said he started smoking methamphetamine several times a day in the weeks leading up the murder. He also was smoking about an ounce and a half of marijuana a day and he had a cooler in his car filled with liquor bottles.

On the day Snapp, 17, was shot, Hunt smoked methamphetamine and marijuana and was drinking liquor.

He admitted to shooting the Richland teen early July 4 in a remote desert area near Beardsley Road and Horn Rapids. Investigators claim he and co-defendant John C.I. Young thought Snapp owed them money and was an informant.

Shane Silverthorn, Hunt’s attorney, has suggested Hunt’s drug and alcohol use affected his ability to understand what he was doing.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller claims Snapp’s murder was premeditated, noting that Hunt can remember everything that happened leading up to and after the shooting.

On the stand Thursday, Hunt gave many details about the night before the murder and the early morning July 4.

Miller said Hunt’s memory of certain details, including dropping friends off, conversations with Snapp in the desert and what happened after the shooting prove he knew what he was doing when he pulled the trigger.

Miller peppered the teen with questions about why he could remember details about the night and next morning but not about the actual shooting. Hunt admitted he remembered certain things before and after the shooting.

“So the meth didn’t do too bad a job on your memory, did it?” Miller asked.

Hunt paused for a moment before replying, “No.”

Hunt showed remorse as he told the jury of four men and 10 women his story of how the shooting happened.

Hunt said he smoked drugs and drank alcohol during the day July 3 before heading to work at a restaurant. He got off about 9 p.m. and met friends at a skate park, where he continued to use drugs and drink liquor.

Hunt said he picked up Young, 19, at 10:30 p.m. and smoked more meth before heading to an apartment complex parking lot. Hunt and a few friends drank and smoked marijuana outside.

“I was high,” he said in court. “I was starting to get a good buzz.”

The group left the apartments and headed to an impromptu party on Williams Boulevard in Richland. At the party, Hunt continued drinking and smoking marijuana, and smoked methamphetamine at 3 a.m.

The party died down and Hunt drove his car to drop off a few friends about 4 a.m., he testified. He said he doesn’t remember dropping two friends off but remembers dropping a girl off, including the roads to get there.

Hunt then decided to head out to the remote desert area with Snapp and Young under the guise of planning to do more drugs.

Once there, Young got out and pulled a gun on Snapp, calling him a “f-ing snitch” and firing two warning shots, Hunt testified. Hunt recalled Young walking off and he and Snapp sat down and talked for about 20 minutes.

Hunt said Snapp looked scared and the pair talked about what had happened and how they wanted to stop using drugs.

Young apparently came back and Hunt took the gun and put it in his shorts, Hunt testified. Hunt told the jury everything had “cooled down” and the three teens smoked marijuana before Young started calling Snapp a snitch again.

On Thursday, tears began to run down Hunt’s face as he described what happened next. “The next thing I know, the gun is in my hand. I shot him in the chest,” Hunt said.

Hunt claims he started crying and walked away as Young grabbed the gun and also shot Snapp.

Hunt said he never planned to shoot Snapp and has had a lot of time in to jail to think about it.

“When I smoked meth I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said.

Hunt then recalled driving to Benton City, putting the revolver and other items in a backpack and throwing it into the Yakima River while Young went inside a convenience store to use the restroom.

Young reportedly told the clerk to call police because he had seen a shooting. Hunt testified he spotted a sheriff deputy’s car, grabbed the backpack and threw it in the river.

Hunt, who can’t swim, said he then contemplated jumping in the river and trying to kill himself. He thought about his family and couldn’t go through with it.

“I (felt) like s--t because I just shot my friend for no reason,” he said.

The jury is scheduled to hear closing statements today before possibly starting deliberations.

Young is charged with the same crime. His trial is set for March.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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