Should stabbing suspect be tried as adult?

SNOHOMISH — A Snohomish teenager had met with a therapist about three weeks before she allegedly stabbed two schoolmates, nearly killing one of the girls.

The defendant had been seeing the therapist about twice a month since February 2011 after her mother discovered that the girl had been cutting herself, according to court papers filed recently. She’d been prescribed an anti-depressant and reported taking a double dose of the medication before going to school on the Oct. 24.

Prosecutors allege the girl, 15, also packed two knives in her backpack that morning. They say the girl waited in a bathroom at Snohomish High School and ambushed two students before the start of classes. April Lutz, 15, was stabbed about a dozen times. Bekah Staudacher, 15, was slashed in the arm and stabbed in the back while trying to stop the assault on her friend.

Prosecutors have charged the defendant with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault. The girl is expected in court today while attorneys argue whether the case should remain in juvenile court.

Prosecutors believe the girl should be treated as an adult, arguing that the attack was brutal and premeditated. They allege that she continues to make threatening remarks toward at least one of the injured girls and wrote a “bucket list” that included blowing up a school and bathing in blood.

If convicted as a juvenile, the girl could be held until she turns 21. She faces a much longer prison sentence if she is convicted as an adult.

The teen’s attorneys dispute that she planned to kill anyone.

“She had no intended target, just a need to hurt someone,” defense attorneys Caroline Mann and Haley Debell wrote.

They also report that the girl hasn’t received any therapy while she’s been locked up for the past four months. She was taken off her prescribed medication in December. It isn’t surprising that her mental health hasn’t improved, they wrote.

“No one believes that (the girl) will spontaneously outgrow her mental health problems on her own,” they added. “Instead, she needs long-term, intensive therapy such as is available in the juvenile system.”

In their brief, the lawyers provided a detailed account of the girl’s rapid change from a good student to a teen fixated on thoughts of death and suicide.

“Until approximately 18 months ago, she was a happy, well-adjusted child, a good student, with friends and a normal life,” the attorneys wrote.

But then she started failing classes. She dressed all in black, took an interest in Satanism and favored music with lyrics relating to death, suicide and torture, court papers said. She talked to a school counselor about having thoughts of killing people and then was expelled from school in April for threatening to stab a friend’s boyfriend.

She spent eight days in outpatient treatment at Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland, which specializes in behavioral health care. Once released, her sessions with the therapist were irregular, and she had difficulty communicating, court papers said.

The teen continued to be preoccupied with thoughts of death and suicide.

By the beginning of the school year, the girl “felt isolated and friendless and afraid to even attempt to connect with people,” court papers said.

A defense expert concluded that the girl doesn’t have any severe signs of long-term psychiatric problems, which weighs in favor of rehabilitation through the intensive services offered by the juvenile system, Mann and Debell wrote.

Her mental illness was the only reason she was ever a danger to herself or others, the lawyers concluded.

“Tragically, that illness was not recognized for how serious it was, but that is a mistake that no one will make a second time,” they wrote.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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