Both teenage defendants, Dominic Wilson, 16, and Morzae Roberts, 17, were accused of first-degree murder in a pair of affidavits filed in Snohomish County Superior Court — a more serious allegation than the original charge of second-degree murder.
Attorneys for the boys objected to a state statute moving the case automatically from the juvenile court system into adult court, because of the seriousness of the offense.
At a Tuesday bail hearing, Superior Court Judge Jennifer Langbehn heard Roberts’ defense attorney argue that Roberts (a) did not touch a gun that day (b) believed they were buying about $225 in nicotine vape pens, not robbing Hofland of them and (c) that his actions suggested he was a bystander rather than an accomplice.
Prosecutors countered that Roberts lied about not being at the crime scene, failed to call for help and deleted a Snapchat story where he posted about vape bars on the same night as the shooting.
The judge reduced his bail to $25,000. Roberts was released by Tuesday night.
Wilson, the suspected shooter, remained in custody Wednesday at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center with bail set at $250,000.
If found guilty as charged, the boys could face 20 to 26⅔ years behind bars, under state sentencing guidelines for adults.
Hofland identified “Dominic from school” as the person who shot him on the sidewalk around 8:47 p.m. Jan. 5, outside his home in the 11600 block of 58th Avenue NE, according to charges filed by deputy prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence.
He died in surgery at 10:38 p.m.
Police believe Hofland was selling “Puff Bars,” disposable vape pens similar to Juul e-cigarettes. A mutual friend reported to police that Wilson was a “Puff Bar fiend” who was “always sucking on them,” and that he sometimes bought them from Hofland for resale. The friend reported Wilson had posted pictures of vape pens, cannabis and guns on his Snapchat account.
The three boys met up last week in the dark, in a chilly downpour, but within view of a neighbor’s security camera.
The footage reportedly shows the two buyers arriving in grayish hoodies. After making a hand-to-hand exchange, Wilson raises an object “presumed to be a gun,” and the other two boys start to walk away from him, according to the charges. Wilson then goes into the street, between two parked cars. According to the charging papers, Hofland “moves towards him, appearing to attempt to grab at the suspected firearm.”
Then he doubles over.
The two other teens ran south through the Marysville Pilchuck High School campus toward Kellogg Village.
Initially, a 911 caller reported Hofland was shot with a BB gun. That was incorrect. He died that night of one gunshot to the stomach.
Marysville detectives tracked down the suspects by the next morning.
Police knew Wilson, because he had been charged twice in the past year for “out-of-control” behavior including an assault on his mother, auto theft and speeding almost double the limit in a stolen car, when he didn’t have a driver’s license. Those cases were deferred.
Wilson walked out of his home around 7:35 a.m. Jan. 6, and went up to an officer who was watching him from a car. According to police reports, he was immediately arrested, advised of his right to an attorney — and then reportedly blurted, “(Expletive) it, I’m gonna be in jail for the rest of my life.”
Later he said he wanted a lawyer, then kept talking to officers unprompted, saying he destroyed his life and the victim’s life, too, according to police reports.
“It was a drug deal gone bad,” he said, once the audio recorder was off. “ … I thought he had a gun but I can’t use that as an excuse. … Three seconds just changed my life.”
Wilson claimed Hofland lunged at him. He asked if the detectives suspected anyone else, or if they believed he acted alone.
“Man,” he said about 10 minutes later, “did you guys already get Morzae? He won’t get in as much trouble as I am, will he? He didn’t shoot.”
Wilson referred to Roberts as his brother, though they’re not actually siblings.
Police spotted Roberts at his home around 11:30 a.m. Jan. 6. Officers staked out the house and arrested him two hours later, when they had a search warrant.
Roberts gave conflicting stories about what happened, and eventually told detectives he knew that Wilson “had been robbing people, but he claimed he didn’t know Dominic was going to rob the victim,” police wrote.
He also claimed he didn’t know Wilson had a gun. At first he stated he did not know Hofland, but later acknowledged he made a similar deal with him about a week earlier.
He recalled on the night in question, Wilson got the “Carts,” and while one of the teens was counting the cash, Wilson pulled a gun.
Roberts reportedly told police where he believed the weapon was hidden: under a pile of clothes in a neighbor kid’s bedroom.
Police looked, but still hadn’t found the gun as of Tuesday’s bail hearing.
Roberts’ attorney Samantha Sommerman noted her client had a “rough childhood,” and that he had recently been informally adopted by a Marysville family.
“Morzae is a 17-year-old scared kid in jail for the first time in his life,” Sommerman wrote in court papers. “He has no criminal convictions and no history of violence.”
A dozen people showed up to the hearing Tuesday to support Roberts, who appeared before the judge via video, in an orange inmate’s uniform.
As Roberts’ family stood up in the gallery to show they were there for him, he began to cry. His lawyer handed him a tissue. He pressed it into his eyes for a few moments, then put it down and stared at it. He folded it in half, then folded it again and again and again, until he couldn’t make it any smaller.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.
Correction: The story has been corrected to show Wilson was charged with multiple other offenses over the past year, but police did not actually book him into the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in those earlier cases.