EPHRATA, Wash. --- A judge re-sentenced the man convicted of shooting and killing two classmates and a teacher at a middle school in Moses Lake in 1996.
Family and friends of the victims killed when Barry Loukaitis opened fire at in their classroom more than 20 years ago had to testify about that fateful day on Wednesday before a judge re-sentenced him to essentially life in prison.
Previously, Loukaitis was sentenced to two life sentences and another 205 years without the possibility of parole. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled teenagers younger than 16 cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Loukaitis was 14-years-old when he was given two life sentences so under the new ruling he had to go back before a judge to be re-sentenced.
The judge followed the prosecution's recommendation of 189 years in prison. The defense did not fight that sentence.
Many victims spoke Wednesday morning about the shooting that left Arnie Fritz, Manuel Vela and teacher Leona Caires dead.
A friend of one of the victims who had been in the next room said he still remembered the blood in the hallway as they walked single file to the exit.
“Class was normal as usual until that first shot,” recalled Derek Martinez on the stand. “We all lost our innocence that day.”
Martinez said he still has flashbacks of what happened.
“Imagine the anxiety of sending your kids back to Frontier Middle School,” he said. Martinez said he always tells his four sons to be aware of their surroundings.
“Does he deserve forgiveness? Probably so. Does he deserve freedom? Absolutely not,” Martinez said.
The mother of Arnie Fritz took the stand next, and spoke about the hours surrounding his death. She said she heard on the radio one child was dead and another had been shot in the arm as she was driving to the school.
She said her son would have walked home, so she drove all the routes he would have taken and could not find him.
When she arrived at the hospital, she found her family gathered there and saw he son on a stretcher.
She said her son was dead, but when she held his hand, she did not realize it was cold until someone else held her other hand.
“It took a long time before the images and experiences of that two hour period weren’t there, flashing before my eyes,” she recalled.
She said she visited Loukaitis about five years ago, and believes his apology.
Loukaitis filed a handwritten letter in court last week, apologizing for his actions and agreeing not to fight the re-sentencing.
“I’ve never apologized for what I’ve done,” Loukaitis wrote in the letter. “I didn’t because I feared that trying to apologize after doing something so terrible would only add insult to injury. If that feeling was wrong, I’m sorry for not speaking before. I’m sorry for denying people what they deserve to hear.”
Arnie's mother said she told Loukaitis he should not feel guilty for any joy he can feel in his life when she visited him, and she still meant that.
Loukaitis appeared to be crying as she spoke.
Jon Lane, teacher who wrestled gun from Loukaitis is now speaking: "Nobody can understand unless they were there."— Lindsay Nadrich (@KREMLindsay) April 19, 2017