Young denies involvement in July 4 slaying

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldApril 21, 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

Hours after Joshua Snapp was gunned down in the Richland desert, John C.I. Young told a police officer the killer should get "a life for a life."

However, Young repeatedly said he had nothing to do with the teen's death and was shocked by Joshua H. Hunt's actions early July 4.

Young, in an obscenity-laced interview played Monday for a Benton County jury, said he alerted authorities because he couldn't "live a normal life" if the shooter got away with it. He said he didn't want someone else stumbling upon Snapp's body in the sand dunes.

"I think that you guys think that I shot him. No, I wouldn't do that to somebody who didn't deserve it," Young told Richland Officer Jeff Bickford. "I'm not trying to save my (expletive), man. I'm trying to get someone to pay for what he (expletive) did. That's why I'm here, man."

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

Prosecutors allege that he not only helped plan the incident by teaching Hunt how to shoot his revolver and picking the isolated location, but he fired one bullet into Snapp's head so the wounded teen would stop moving.

Defense attorney John Crowley admitted to the jury in opening statements that his client -- fearful the gun would be turned on him -- took it from Hunt and shot once at Snapp, but doesn't know "if he hit the target or not."

Young initially was treated as a witness after he asked a clerk at the Desert Food Mart in Benton City to call 911 because he'd just seen a person get shot. He tried to stay hidden inside the convenience store until authorities arrested Hunt because he knew Hunt would be irate at being turned in.

But about 45 minutes into the interview at the Richland police station, Bickford left the room to make a phone call and returned to say Hunt was talking and he had a different version of events. He then read Young his Miranda rights.

Jurors on Monday watched the first hour and 39 minutes of the recorded statement. The video reportedly is up to five hours long, though it includes long breaks when the camera was left running.

Throughout Monday's segment, Young claimed he was telling the truth about his lack of involvement and that he just froze up as Hunt shot Snapp three or four times.

Snapp, 17, fell down after the first bullet hit him in the chest. He then was shot twice in the head.

"It was (expletive) nasty, man. ... Inhumane, you know. I never seen anything like that before," said Young, who let out a heavy sigh at one point, then got choked up.

Hunt, who turned 20 on Monday, was convicted of second-degree murder in February and is serving more than 23 years in prison.

Young told Bickford that the three young men went to the spot off Beardsley Road near Horn Rapids to smoke methamphetamine, but got out there about 6 a.m. to discover Hunt didn't have any. So they smoked marijuana while Hunt -- who goes by the nickname R.J. -- confronted Snapp about his belief that the teen was a thief and a police informant.

Young said he took three hits of weed, adding that he only had two shots of tequila the night before at a house party. He said Hunt and Snapp were both "a little drunk," and that Hunt suddenly pulled out the gun.

Once it was over, Hunt and Young stopped at the store for cigarettes, then drove to the other side of the highway and parked. Hunt was "tripping out" as they talked about what happened and any evidence left behind, so they changed their shoes and stashed the revolver and extra ammunition in the trunk, Young said.

Young then told Hunt to take him back to the store so he could use the restroom. Hunt was taken into custody after he dumped a backpack in the nearby Yakima River.

Bickford acknowledged in the interview that he and Young had known each other for at least a few years from the teen's previous criminal contacts.

"I'm just going to tell you right now, John, I really want you to explain what happened without me having to pry that stuff out of you," Bickford said, after giving Young several chances to admit his role in the shooting. "It's favorable for you if it comes out of your own mouth instead of someone else's story. It shows remorse. It shows that people screwed up" instead of sounding like it was planned out and meant to happen.

"(Expletive), I didn't know he was going to do it, man. We talked about it, just me and (Hunt) before. ... He said, 'I want to kill Josh so bad,' but I thought, 'Ha ha, you're messing around,' " Young said.

"I don't know what else to say, man. I was there, I (expletive) watched him. I didn't know what to do, man. It's (expletive) scary," Young continued. "You know, a guy just (expletive) died, man. ... He was still a kid. He had a life, you know."

In the courtroom, Snapp's relatives, including his parents, often lowered or shook their heads while listening to the statements Monday.

Bickford pointed out inconsistencies in Young's story about when he last handled the revolver that was used to kill Snapp.

Early in the interview, Young said he shot the gun two days prior at a Finley park, then later said he held it at the Richland skate park a couple days before and shot it in Finley about a month before.

Young's story again changed to say he showed Hunt how to pull the hammer back while at the party on July 4, and then he told Bickford he carried the gun back to the car after Hunt shot Snapp.

Bickford said the gun would be tested at a crime lab and scientists may find evidence on it. Young looked directly at Bickford and repeated that he "didn't ever pull the trigger."

The jury is expected to watch the rest of the video today when the trial resumes at the Benton County Justice Center.

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

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