EVERETT — All five teen defendants have been found guilty and sentenced in the killing of Julie Knechtel, an Everett mother who was shot while protecting her son from armed intruders.
The second of two shooters was sent to prison Monday.
Four young men broke into a shed behind Knechtel’s mobile home early Dec. 7, 2017, off East Gibson Road. They beat the son, then 17, forcing him to the floor and pistol-whipping him.
Knechtel rushed in when she heard the ruckus. She was shot first, in the lungs and heart. The son was cradling his dying mother when Larry Dorrough fired a shot into the boy’s back.
Knechtel died. She was 54.
Her son survived.
“He bears that bullet today as he sits here in court,” deputy prosecutor Matthew Pittman said. “And he bears not just that physical reminder, but he bears the mental reminder of being shot while he tended to his mother, as she died in his arms.”
The other shooter, Bryan Rodriguez-Hernandez, now 18, admitted to first-degree murder last year for shooting Knechtel. Judge Judge sentenced him to 25 years, too, in January.
Knechtel’s son did not speak at the sentencing for the man who shot him. In the past he told police he was known as a drug dealer, according to court papers. He reported he’d been robbed before by one of the intruders, Caya Lenay, then 15.
That chilly night in December 2017, Lenay told the others that Knechtel’s son had “re-upped” on drugs. So they all agreed to go rob him, court records show.
“The state does not seek to label Lenay as the ‘mastermind’ behind the robbery plan,” prosecutors wrote in Lenay’s case. “There was little ‘mindful’ exhibited by any of the defendants in question, and nothing that was masterful.”
He offered up a “ripe victim” for a robbery, according to the state’s sentencing memorandum. He knew his friends were armed with guns. Lenay was sentenced to about 11 years in prison for second-degree murder.
At the mobile home park, a young woman, Gladyz Valencia-Anguiano, then 16, kept a lookout from a car. She pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance. She’ll remain in juvenile detention until her 21st birthday.
All of the other teens were charged as adults.
The two teens with guns approached the shed with weapons drawn. Mondrell Robertson Jr. helped kick in the door. He thought they’d come to settle a grudge, and did not believe anyone would get killed, he told police. Judge ordered Robertson to serve 10¼ years for second-degree murder.
Knechtel’s son was surrendering his drugs when his mother came into the room swinging a chair, according to detectives’ interviews with the attackers. Rodriguez-Hernandez told the others he’d shot her because she would not get off of him.
The judge noted Dorrough had no explanation for why he shot the boy.
“It was a preventable event, and it was callous,” Judge said.
Dorrough was reported as missing and endangered in 2017. He’d lacked family stability since he was a baby. He abused drugs in his teens. He’d been taking Xanax daily for months.
He’d consumed that drug, marijuana and alcohol on the night of the crime, according to his defense. Hours before the break-in, Dorrough and Rodriguez-Hernandez opened fire at the Hangar 128 apartments, targeting a young man who lived there. Bullets narrowly missed his family members.
Court papers say Rodriguez-Hernandez used a 9mm pistol. Dorrough had a revolver. He reloaded and kept shooting. Neither teen was charged for the gunfire at the apartment, in plea deals reached by prosecutors.
Dorrough told the court that he was sorry to the point it was hard to even think about it.
“I still can’t believe it happened and I wish I could go back because I’m not the person people make me out to be,” he wrote.
Dorrough said he knew an apology would not help.
“I have a long time to change my life around, so that this will not happen again,” he said.
The defense had asked for a sentence of 20 years.
Letters from Knechtel’s family — her mother, two sisters, and a niece — were read aloud in court, through tears at times.
“I cry every day,” wrote the mother, 83. “Julie loved her kids, they meant everything to her. She would’ve done anything for them. She even gave her life that morning trying to protect one of them.”
It was the fifth sentencing that Knechtel’s family endured.
“This family is tired,” the judge said. “They’re tired, and they do need peace.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.