Crime update: the aftermath of the deadly 2010 Lakebay shooting


Rick Sorrels

About two years after a deadly shooting in Lakebay in an alleged invasion, the home where as many as 100 rounds were shot remains empty. One of the two people convicted in the case continues to serve out his prison sentence.

On Oct. 7, 2010, a quiet Lakebay evening erupted in gunfire as three armed residents allegedly defended their home against a group of six armed and camouflaged intruders. A 44-year-old man was shot dead on the doorstep, another invader was found in a ditch bleeding severely from gunshot wounds and a third one was caught later uninjured.

One of the people inside the home sustained gunshot wounds to his shoulder and two were uninjured.

It was shift change for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Dozens of police vehicles responded from across the county. Lt. Jerry Lawrence from the Peninsula Detachment said, “When I arrived, I saw a great many expended shotgun shells.”

It took days for deputies to sort out what happened and how many people were involved.

Television, radio, and newspapers covered the event for about two weeks, including speculative comments about gangs, drug dealers and grow operations. There has been no coverage since.

The two perpetrators spent six months in the Pierce County Jail before they entered an Alford Plea, where they do not admit guilt to any wrongdoing but plead guilty believing that the evidence is sufficient to find them guilty.

Without a trial, the facts have not been litigated. Evidence has not been presented nor argued. The only statements of what might have happened were presented by the prosecutor in the charging documents.

According to those documents, Justin Dale Hill, 27, was charged with assault in the first degree, attempted burglary in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree. He had a long list of prior convictions. Julia May Jones, 22, was charged with attempted burglary in the first degree. Rhett Whitchurch, the alleged attacker who was shot dead, was not charged because death precludes prosecution.

The charging documents allege that Hill, Jones and Whitchurch had travelled from Auburn to Lakebay to be “reimbursed” for some “bad drugs” that Jones had purchased from one of the Lakebay residents. “Under the cover of darkness” the three are alleged to have approached the residence on 2nd Street KPN with shotguns. The residents met them at the doorway with their own firearms.

The maximum sentence allowed for burglary in the first degree is life in prison. The standard sentence with a weapons enhancement is 50 to 58 months. The standard sentence for assault in the second degree is 24 to 26 months. Sentences are usually served concurrently.

With Hill’s plea bargain, the prosecutor recommended a total of 58 months for his sentence: 58 months for the burglary charge and 26 months for the assault charge, to be served concurrently.

Judges usually sentence no higher than the prosecutor’s recommendation but are not required to do so. Judge Ronal Culpepper ordered that Hill serve his sentences consecutively instead of concurrently, for a total of 70 months, and that it be served “flat time,” meaning that Hill receives no credit for good behavior in prison. Convicted criminals normally automatically get their sentences reduced by one-third for staying out of serious trouble while serving their time. Hill did, however, receive 182 days credit for time already served awaiting trial.

For Jones, as a first-time offender, the standard sentencing range for attempted burglary is up to 90 days. Culpepper sentenced her to 90 days with 185 days credit for time already served.

The residents/occupants at the house were Jeffrey Hacker, 29, James Scott, 28, and Tyler Scott, 20. James Scott was the one shot in the left shoulder.

Neighbors state that Hacker immediately moved away and has not been seen since. James Scott and Tyler Scott moved away a few days later, and have been seen to return occasionally to visit their parents in Lakebay. James Scott has recovered from his wounds.

Lawrence said he did observe “a small number of marijuana plants growing at the residence” but shrugged them off as “insignificant.” To date, the prosecutor has not charged the three house occupants with any crime in the shootout.

The house remains boarded up and empty. The neighborhood is tranquil, with no sign of any conflict.


Drug Fact

The drug sold in the Lakebay case was Oxycontin, which is frequently smoked by drug addicts. Oxycontin was recently reformulated so that it turns into a gel form instead of a power form when it is crushed. This prevents its illegal abuse by drug addicts.[/box]