Joshua Snapp’s mother choked back tears Wednesday at the sentencing of her son’s killer, questioning how he could have wanted to murder “the most kindest, sweetest, loving child, friend, son, grandson you could ever meet.”
Aimee Snapp-Reutercrona said she prays for Joshua H. Hunt, just like Hunt made her son do in the final moments of his life.
“He was amazing in so many different ways,” Snapp-Reutercrona said of her son. “You took something so precious from me, and forever changed my life and forever changed my family’s life. And not for the better, not yet anyway.”
Hunt, 19, grabbed a tissue from the defense table and wiped his eyes as she spoke.
He listened to 40 minutes of emotional statements from Snapp’s family, then told Judge Carrie Runge he had nothing to say before he was sentenced to 23 years and four months in state prison for second-degree murder with a firearm.
Chris Snapp, the victim’s father, said the sentence didn’t seem fair for his son’s life, but recognized it was the only justice he could get in Washington courts because the system is flawed. He had shown a large, framed portrait of his son to the judge and Hunt.
“My son’s life was worth 23.4 years. That means, what, (age) 40, 45, you get to get out and start living again,” Chris Snapp said, facing a tearful Hunt. “There’s not going to be any justice here. My son is gone, he will be gone forever. Our fragile family has been devastated by what has happened.”
Chris Snapp said he and Hunt’s father were friends “back in the day.” The two had differences and drifted apart, but they never once thought about shooting somebody because of their issues, he yelled at Hunt.
“Your dad hasn’t been at this trial because he thought you should be a man and should stand up and be accountable for what you’ve done,” Chris Snapp said. “And I think that’s commendable because God dammit, that’s the same thing I would have asked Josh to do.”
Hunt turned down any plea offers and took his case to trial. He was convicted by a jury in February. Runge opted to give Hunt the maximum possible sentence, which includes a five-year mandatory term for the revolver that was used to shoot Snapp.
She also ordered Hunt to pay $5,750 in restitution to the Crime Victim’s Compensation program in Olympia.
Hunt testified at trial that he and co-defendant John C.I. Young shot Snapp while partying together early July 4. Young’s trial is scheduled April 7 on one count of first-degree murder with the firearm.
“I don’t know how you can do something like this. I pray for you, that’s all I can do, just like Joshua prayed for you,” Snapp-Reutercrona told Hunt. “I know what he would want for me and I’m doing it. You know who you took, you know who he was, he was your friend. All I could do is pray for you for the rest of your life. I’m really sorry that I can’t forgive you.”
Runge — who presides over the bicounty adult drug court — told Hunt it is hard for her “to fathom the amount of drug abuse” in his life leading up to the shooting.
She noted his daily use of alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine, and said it was clear he lacked motivation and direction and had a lot of down time.
Runge said Hunt is different than his victim in “one huge way.”
“You have hope, sir. You have hope for a life afterwards,” she said. “Josh Snapp does not have that same hope. Josh Snapp’s family is left with memories, but after you serve your sentence you have hope to get out of prison.”
Grandfather Jim Daniels said Snapp was given his middle name of James after him.
Daniels sat at the prosecution table facing Hunt, and ordered the teen to look over his shoulder at the victim’s extended family in the courtroom. He said the hope had been for Snapp to have someday what Daniels has — “a big family, grandchildren and a legacy. But your hatred of him ... you took (Snapp) from this Earth and did not give him a chance to have a family like that.”
“I hope all the time you spend in prison you think about that,” Daniels continued. “You think about all the time Josh had to have a family, and what he could have done. He could have carried on my name.”
Breanna Snapp recalled how the night before the shooting she argued with her younger brother and didn’t give him the time of day because she thought he’d always be here.
The next morning, she was feeding her 2-month-old son when police came to her dad’s house with the news. Breanna Snapp said after seeing her emotional dad fall to the ground, she set her son down, ran out the front door, got down on her hands and knees and screamed hysterically while an officer said her brother had been murdered.
The rest of the day was a blur until the fireworks began, which made Breanna Snapp think of the gunshots that killed her brother. She said it didn’t become real until the funeral service weeks later, when she saw Joshua Snapp in his casket.
“You have caused horrible pain to so many. It’s very clear that those tears (on the witness stand) were not meant for my brother. How dare you call my brother a friend,” said Breanna Snapp, telling Hunt she doesn’t believe his side of the story. “I am so angry. My blood that once (also) ran through my brother’s veins now boils. I have never felt hatred until now.
“This is the beginning of your hell,” she added. “You made your bed and I hope you enjoy laying in it.”
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer