Berriault gets 55 years


Herald Writer

MOUNT VERNON — An Anacortes man convicted of the thrill killing of a promising young Navy officer showed no emotion as Skagit County Superior Court Judge Michael Rickert sentenced him Thursday to 55 years in prison.

Eben Berriault, 36, showed little emotion throughout the daylong sentencing hearing in which he watched politely, expressionless, his chin raised, as witness after witness described Lt.j.g. Scott Kinkele, 23, as an exceptional person, and Berriault as a soulless one.

Berriault will be in his 80s before he is eligible for release, and even then he would have several more years under community supervision.

That wasn’t severe enough for Kinkele’s family and friends, who wanted Berriault locked up for life so that he never would get out of prison and have a chance to kill a third person.

On July 28, Berriault killed Kinkele with a shotgun blast to the back of the head as the unsuspecting officer drove west on Highway 20 headed for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. In 1983, Berriault and several friends robbed a man and beat him to death with rocks in Chelan County.

Prosecutor Tom Verge and Rickert both say Berriault will die in prison. Rickert sentenced him to the maximum under the state’s guidelines.

Nearly 80 people in the courtroom heard, many for the first time, Berriault’s comments regarding Kinkele’s death. Berriault prepared written comments, but chose to have one of his attorneys, Keith Tyne, read them.

"I’d like to say that I am truly sorry for what happened," Tyne read. "I did not choose Scott Kinkele. I pled guilty because there was too much evidence against me."

Before passing sentence, Rickert asked Berriault if he had anything to say.

He shook his head no, then said: "Other than I wish it wouldn’t have happened. If there was anything I could do to change it, I would."

There were plenty of tears and emotions during the hearing, with witnesses often choking up or crying on the stand and some in the audience crying quietly.

Kinkele’s relatives and friends described him in glowing terms, citing his Navy honors and numerous accomplishments.

Shannon Callahan, his naval academy classmate, friend and fellow pilot, summed up the general feelings with a touch of humor.

"Did Scott really walk on water? Well, maybe not, but he could rappel, parachute, parasail, kayak or bungee over it," she said of the adventurous Navy officer.

Mary Kinkele of Las Vegas, Scott’s mother, showed the court a 37-minute video about her son.

"This is not something that happened just to the Kinkele family and to the Navy," she said. "This community has been irrevocably damaged. I’m a ‘fix-it’ mom, and I can’t fix this."

Rickert agreed, saying the hearing was the most difficult day he’d had in about 15 years in the courtroom, and that Kinkele "truly was an amazing individual."

He turned toward Berriault, noting the Kinkele family’s anger and his own.

"How dare you?" he grated, asking Berriault how he could have brought this on the Kinkele family as well as leaving his own children to grow up fatherless.

Berriault nodded silently.

"Your actions have placed a black mark on this county, cheapened and shamed this county," Rickert said.

Eva Berriault of Anacortes, Eben’s mother, asked the court for mercy for her son. She expressed her sorrow over the killing, but said there’s no proof that her son fired the shotgun and that he "has love and family values. He wasn’t in his right mind when he got drunk and went riding in a car."

Tyne described Berriault and his wife, Shirna, and their two children as an "intact family that went to church" and read touching letters to the judge from the children, ages 9 and 6.

Both sides agreed that the crime sent shock waves through the entire community and robbed residents of their sense of safety.

Rickert will sentence Berriault’s half-brother Seth Anderson, 23, of Anacortes today on first-degree murder and first-degree assault charges.

Anderson was driving the car while Berriault wielded a rifle and a gun and shot Kinkele to death.

Adam Moore, 25, also of Anacortes was in the back seat. He has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. He is expected to appear in court next month to change his plea to guilty, prosecutors said.

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