27 years in prison for deadly Tulalip robbery

EVERETT — In a letter from prison, Nicky Schoonover Jr. asked his younger sister not to give up on him.

Schoonover was a drug addict and his sickness had hurt his family. He wanted his sister to know he loved her. He was her biggest fan.

“I never got the chance to answer that letter,” Tihani Schoonover said.

Nicky Schoonover Jr., 36, was killed seven months after writing his sister. He was shot to death in an apparent robbery just north of the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

The gunman, Jamall Baker, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 years in prison. The Everett man, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree murder for the Feb. 19, 2008, slaying.

Investigators believe Schoonover was shot for his disability payment. Detectives discovered a check-cashing receipt clenched in his hand. Earlier in the day he’d taken the $800 check to a Money Tree check-cashing business in Everett.

“I would like to apologize to the family for my actions and everybody my actions affected. I’m sorry,” Baker said.

Schoonover’s parents told the judge that Schoonover was a generous man whose death has left a hole in his family. They encouraged Superior Court Judge Larry McKeeman to give Baker the maximum sentence to keep him from hurting any other families.

“It appalls me that law-abiding taxpayers will be supporting you while you’re incarcerated,” but it’s necessary to keep the community safe, said the victim’s dad, Nicky Schoonover Sr.

The case against Baker had been delayed for more than two years while state doctors evaluated Baker at least three times to determine if he was able to assist in his own legal defense.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Helene Blume pushed for a nearly 29-year sentence, the maximum under state sentencing guidelines. She argued that Baker had tried to manipulate the system by exaggerating his mental health problems. She also argued that Schoonover was a particularly vulnerable victim.

Video footage of the victim and Baker was retrieved from businesses they visited in the hours before the shooting. The surveillance cameras captured the men apparently getting along. Schoonover didn’t know what Baker had planned, Blume said.

This case, “cries out for a high-end sentence,” she said.

Baker’s attorney Max Harrison argued for a 21-year sentence, the low end of the range. He said the delays weren’t Baker’s doing. The mental health evaluations were necessary to make sure Baker was able to assist in his own defense, Harrison said.

Baker has been living with mental health problems since he was a young boy, Harrison said. While that doesn’t excuse what he did, it should be factored into his sentence, the lawyer said.

“I think justice is served with a low-end sentence,” Harrison said.

McKeeman agreed that Baker’s mental health issues should be considered but said those issues weren’t enough to warrant a low-end sentence.

Co-defendant Elmer Sampson pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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