EVERETT — A second trial has led to the conviction of an Arlington man accused of murdering a suspected burglar in 2009.
Keira Earhart, 39, shook his head in apparent shock after Thursday’s verdict was read.
Earhart claimed that he was defending himself when he pulled a gun on Ryan Rz
echula Nov. 16, 2009.
Rzechula, 25, was shot in the back about a quarter-mile from Earhart’s house three hours after Earhart reported a burglary there. Rzechula’s body was discovered two days later in a creek bed in the defendant’s neighborhood.
Detectives found jewelry in his pocket that matched the description of the jewelry taken from Earhart’s house.
A Snohomish County jury began deliberating Wednesday afternoon after more than a week of testimony. As jurors filed into the courtroom on Thursday, a couple of them glanced at Rzechula’s family. None of them seemed to look at Earhart, who was seated next to his attorney, Pete Mazzone.
Jurors convicted Earhart of second-degree murder under the theory that he caused Rzechula’s death while committing the second-degree assault of pointing a gun at the man.
Another jury was divided at Earhart’s first trial late last year. Those jurors acquitted Earhart of intentional murder but were deadlocked over whether Earhart was guilty under the assault theory. They also couldn’t reach a decision on whether he was guilty of manslaughter.
Superior Court Judge Larry McKeeman declared a mistrial at the time.
That left the door open for Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Mara Rozzano to pursue the undecided charges in a second trial.
She alleged that after deputies failed to locate the man who broke into Earhart’s house, he went driving around the neighborhood looking for the burglar himself. She accused Earhart of confronting a man who matched the suspect’s description and shooting at him as the man was trying to run away.
Earhart had called 911 to report that he came home to find someone running from his house. He tried to chase the man but lost sight of him. Sheriff’s deputies tried to find the man but were unsuccessful.
About three hours later, shortly after the deputy left the neighborhood, Earhart called 911 again to report that he’d found the suspect. The deputy found Earhart in a neighbor’s yard, carrying a gun.
Earhart told the deputy he spotted a man who he thought might be the person he’d seen earlier running from his home, Rozzano wrote.
A neighbor told investigators he heard what sounded like gunfire and heard someone yell “Stop!” He said he saw a man running toward some trees. The man appeared to be limping, court papers said.
The neighbor told investigators it was clear the man was trying to run away from Earhart, who was chasing him, Rozzano wrote.
The defense countered that Rzechula had lunged at Earhart, who was defending himself against an assault.
Earhart faces more than 15 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25.
He had been free on bail pending trial. McKeeman ordered him taken into custody Thursday. Earhart was allowed a brief conversation with his family.
“Take care of the kids, OK?” he told them.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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