EVERETT — A Camano Island man was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in a drug robbery turned fatal shooting in 2020 at Langus Riverfront Park.
All three defendants have now been convicted in the killing of James Scannell, 56, on Aug. 31, 2020.
In September, Joshua Lowery, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Christopher Benson, who drove Lowery and Kyle Caperoon to the park along the Snohomish River the day of the shooting, is set for sentencing Dec. 19 after pleading guilty to first-degree robbery.
Benson’s plea agreement is for 3½ years in prison in exchange for his testimony at Caperoon’s trial over the past week in front of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy.
Scannell, of Everett, had been shorting Lowery on drug deals for a while, deputy prosecutor Michelle Rutherford said in her closing statement Thursday morning.
“Finally, he gets so upsets at this that he recruits his friend Kyle who has access to a firearm to even the score,” she told jurors.
So on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2020, Caperoon and Lowery, both from Camano Island, met Benson, of Tulalip, at Quil Ceda Creek Casino. Benson, now 45, drove them in his Ford Escape to Langus Riverfront Park, according to charging papers.
While driving to the park, Lowery showed Benson an envelope of money. He asked if it looked real. He reportedly told Benson the money was fake and they planned to rob Scannell. Caperoon showed him a 9 mm pistol.
When the trio got to the park, Scannell was sitting alone in his Mercury Montego in a boat launch parking lot, the charges say. Lowery got in the passenger seat. Caperoon sat in the back.
Scannell gave Lowery, now 29, some heroin and meth. Caperoon pulled out his pistol, racked the slide and told Scannell to “run his pockets,” the defendant later told police. Scannell told them he couldn’t give them anything. He had too much riding on the deal.
Caperoon told investigators Scannell then reached for the gun and it went off. He reported he didn’t think he pulled the trigger. Lowery and Caperoon ran to Benson’s car. He wanted to flee to California, but stayed for his fiancée.
“There is no way I am convincing a judge that it was an accident,” he reported thinking.
Kayakers found the Everett man shot in the head in the front seat of his Mercury. In his hand, he was clutching real and fake money.
Snohomish County prosecutors charged all three with first-degree murder.
In her closing statement, the deputy prosecutor said the defendant confessed to the crime in detail in his interview with police. And even if he didn’t plan to kill Scannell, the robbery was planned, so it meets the definition of first-degree murder.
“It doesn’t matter what your intention was,” Rutherford said. “You are responsible for that death. That is murder in the first degree. There’s no way around it. There’s no technicality that gets the defendant out of this. Whether he intended to pull the trigger is not relevant to the inquiry.”
Caperoon’s public defender Donald Wackerman countered, arguing his client was being “scapegoated” for the crime, while his co-conspirators were convicted of lesser charges.
“Ms. Rutherford says, ‘Accident doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because if you have any involvement in this sort of circumstance, you’re guilty of murder in the first degree,’” Wackerman said in his closing statement. “Except, not Mr. Benson and not Mr. Lowery, just Mr. Caperoon. That’s not justice.”
Caperoon declined to testify at the trial.
After about three hours of deliberations, the jury of seven men and five women convicted Caperoon, 31, of first-degree murder and unlawful firearm possession, making him the only defendant to be convicted of the original charge.
He has several prior felony convictions, including for identity theft, criminal impersonation and stolen property trafficking, all in Snohomish County.
Sentencing is set for Feb. 13.