EVERETT — A Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to drowning his nephew, a first-grader, in a bathtub north of Lynnwood.
Prosecutors plan to recommend more than 18 years in prison for Andrew Henckel, 20, of Kerrville, Texas.
Henckel hesitated for a moment before admitting to second-degree murder in Snohomish County Superior Court. Sentencing is set for March 20.
Part of the plea agreement calls for a mental health evaluation.
The man was visiting his sister’s apartment in October 2017, with plans to stay for a few weeks. His sister’s boyfriend returned home one afternoon to find Henckel alone on the couch and Henckel’s 6-year-old nephew, Dayvid Pakko, missing.
The two men searched for about 45 minutes, according to court papers.
The child’s mother phoned police around 5 p.m. Oct. 16.
The family told police that Dayvid had autism. He had no history of wandering off. Detectives noted Henckel may have a form of autism, too, but he’d done well in school and went to college for a year.
“I don’t have the slightest clue where he’d go or what had happened,” Henckel told police while the boy was missing. “I’m just assuming he got lost or something.”
Hundreds of people helped with the search.
Dayvid’s body was found around 2 a.m., hidden in a garbage bin a few steps outside of the apartment. Henckel watched at a distance. Once he saw deputies focusing on the spot, he turned and tried to walk away. He was stopped by detectives.
The boy’s body was partly covered by a box addressed to the family’s apartment. A child’s drawings covered the cardboard.
“Dayvid loved trains and cars and planes and Legos,” his family wrote in an obituary. “He was smart and funny and even when you were cross with him, you couldn’t be for long. His smile and eyes were like heaven.”
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives interviewed Henckel a second time. He gave reluctant answers. Eventually, he described how his sister’s boyfriend left the apartment to run an errand. About 10 minutes passed. Henckel said he’d filled the tub, called his nephew into the bathroom and lifted him into the bath, according to court papers. He held the boy’s head underwater for 30 seconds or so, until he stopped moving. A detective asked him why he’d done it.
“I don’t know,” Henckel answered.
“So you don’t know why you … drowned your nephew?”
“Wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “I just kinda did it.”
He told detectives he’d taken his cell phone into the tub. Deputies seized it and confirmed it had water damage.
Detectives sifted through a full load of laundry in the dryer. Most of the clothing was dry, except for Henckel’s shirt and pants.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.