Friends testify against murder suspect Young

Tri-City HeraldApril 18, 2014 

Defendant John Young enters Benton County Superior Court Wednesday morning in Kennewick. He's charged with first-degree murder of Joshua Snapp.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald

— John C.I. Young and Joshua H. Hunt were friends who seemed to get closer leading up to the July 4 fatal shooting of a Richland teen, witnesses testified Friday.

The two men weren't necessarily best friends, but they went from hanging out every once in a while to "more and more," often at the Richland skate park, said the witnesses, friends of Young and Hunt.

The testimony in Young's murder trial contradicts a defense claim that Young "hardly knew" Hunt before Joshua Snapp was killed.

Attorney John Crowley told jurors earlier this week that his client didn't have an ax to grind with the 17-year-old Snapp and was shocked when Hunt pulled out a revolver and shot Snapp after they all finished smoking marijuana.

Crowley also said Young feared the gun was going to be turned on himself, so he took the gun from Hunt and fired a shot at the twitching Snapp, but doesn't know if the bullet actually hit him.

Young, 19, is on trial in Benton County Superior Court for first-degree murder with a firearm. The charge involves premeditated intent.

Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long made a point of asking other teens about the relationship between Young and Hunt.

"They seemed closer I guess around the Fourth (of July). Yeah, when all this happened," said Josiah Brown of Richland.

Brown, who said he's known Young for maybe two years, nodded at him while walking in front of the defense table to the witness stand.

Another friend, Gino Barajas, testified that when Hunt talked on July 3 about killing Snapp, Young volunteered that he knew a place to do it.

Barajas described himself as a friend of Young and Hunt. He said Hunt previously discussed the shooting -- once with Young and a couple of times with Barajas -- but he didn't believe Hunt.

Barajas went to the skate park July 3 and saw Hunt's car there with several people standing around enjoying the day, he said.

At one point, when Barajas, Hunt and Young were sitting in the car, Hunt began talking about Snapp again, Barajas testified.

Hunt said he had five bullets and also discussed using a pillow to muzzle sounds.

Hunt asked Young if Young knew of a place to take Snapp, and Young said he did have a place, Barajas said.

Barajas got out of the car after that and did not hear more of the conversation, he said.

"I was freaking out in my mind," he said.

Hunt believed Snapp was a police informant, but Young didn't share those suspicions, Barajas said.

Barajas, formerly of Richland, said he would have preferred not to testify against Young. He also took the stand in Hunt's trial a couple of months ago.

Hunt, 19, is serving more than 23 years in prison for his conviction. A Benton County jury couldn't agree on first-degree murder and returned a guilty verdict of second-degree murder with the firearm.

Police recovered all five bullets fired by Hunt's revolver. Snapp was shot once in the chest and twice in the head, Richland police Detective Dean Murstig said.

Two bullets were found in his body and three were found on the ground, Murstig said. One appeared to have passed through Snapp's skull and landed in the sand.

One bullet was found in an area where Hunt had parked the car that he drove to the secluded spot off Beardsley Road near Horn Rapids. Another was found on the ground near Snapp's head, the detective said.

Murstig also was asked to read a portion of the transcript from Young's police interview, in which the suspect said that Snapp was lying on the ground and still moving when he had the gun.

"He stopped after I shot him in the head," Murstig read.

Richland Officer Jeff Bickford said when he arrived at the crime scene in the desert, he recognized Young from previous law enforcement contacts. At that point, Young was believed to just be a witness to the shooting and was standing next to a Benton County Sheriff's Office vehicle.

Bickford said he later made eye contact with Young and it was apparent to him that the teen wanted to talk. Young was in the front passenger seat of that car, and Bickford opened the door to find Young was shaken and crying.

"He was upset. He made a comment," Bickford testified. "He said something similar to, 'We f---ed up. I shouldn't have been there,' and then started mumbling."

Bickford later helped Richland Detective Athena Clark interview Young at the police station.

Terry Franklin, a supervising forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory in Tacoma, said all five of the bullets that were given to him for testing were fired by the double-action revolver that has been linked to Snapp's shooting.

"(They were) fired by that firearm and no other firearm in the world," Franklin said.

The trial resumes Monday in the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick.

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