Craig M. Sorger
(February 10, 1990 — February 15, 2003) was a teenager from Ephrata,
Washington who was brutally murdered by then-12-year-old playmates Evan
Drake Savoie and Jake Lee Eakin.
Sorger was a autistic and a
developmentally disabled teenager who loved science, video games and
race cars. Sorger was at home when Savoie and Eakin asked his mother if
he could come out to play. As night fell, Sorger's mother became worried
because Sorger was afraid of the dark. When she found out that Savoie
and Eakin had gone home hours earlier, she knew something was wrong. She
was later informed that her son's body had been found near the area
where the three children had been playing.
When police questioned Savoie and
Eakin the night Sorger's body was discovered, each told a similar story.
Savoie said Sorger fell while climbing a tree. Eakin said he and Savoie
were on the same branch in the tree with Sorger when the fall occurred.
The autopsy came in and proved differently.
When Sorger's body was found, the
autopsy reported that Sorger had been beaten approximately 16 times
about the head and neck and stabbed 34 times in the same areas where he
had been beaten. He also had 8 stab wounds to his torso as well.
The Confession and Trial
Although they both claimed innocence,
they were charged with first degree murder. After changing his story,
Eakin finally confessed to his role in the killing, pleading guilty to
second-degree murder by complicity and was sentenced to 14 years. He
then testified against Savoie, who maintained his innocence. On April
29, 2006, Savoie was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced
to 26 years in prison — the maximum sentence that could be imposed.
Teen murderer gets 26-plus years
for killing playmate
Dininny - The Seatle Times
The Associated Press
July 11, 2006
EPHRATA — A 15-year-old boy was
sentenced Monday to more than 26 years in prison for beating and
stabbing a playmate to death three years ago, closing one of the most
brutal murders ever committed by a juvenile in Washington state.
Evan Savoie, of Ephrata, showed no
emotion when Grant County Superior Court Judge Ken Jorgensen imposed the
maximum sentence. He smiled slightly as he was led away in handcuffs.
Savoie was 12 years old when he and
a friend were charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 15, 2003,
death of Craig Sorger, a developmentally disabled boy who had last been
seen playing with them in a recreational-vehicle park. Sorger's bloody
body was found hours later with dozens of stab wounds.
repeatedly proclaimed his innocence. The other friend at the park that
day, Jake Eakin, eventually changed his story and testified against him
at trial. Eakin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder by complicity and
is serving 14 years.
attorneys argued that justice would no better be served by issuing the
maximum sentence. Standard sentencing range for first-degree murder is
between 20 years and 26 years.
"This is a
tragic incident for everybody involved," defense attorney Randy Smith
said. "But the likelihood that rehabilitation is going to be any more
effective after 26 years than after 20 years is ridiculous."
disagreed, saying the punishment must match the crime. Savoie brutally
attacked Sorger, leaving him bleeding, pleading for help and crying out
that he was dying on a wooded trail, he said.
He later added:
"Somebody is going to have to figure out how a 12-year-old can be so
violent, so young."
Savoie's mother, continued to insist her son is innocent. She said
neither Evan nor Craig received justice in the case.
"The killer is
still out there," she said. "Now we're going to appeal. And I'm not
giving up. My son is innocent, and I'm going to fight."
Ephrata teen of killing disabled playmate
Dininny - The Seatle Times
The Associated Press
April 29, 2006
EPHRATA — A teenager was convicted
Friday of premeditated murder for the brutal slaying of a
developmentally disabled 13-year-old playmate.
Evan Savoie, 12 years old at the
time of the Feb. 15, 2003, killing, was among the youngest murder
defendants in Washington state to be tried as an adult.
Now 15, Savoie faces between 20 and
26 years in prison for the slaying of Craig Sorger, whose body was found
in an RV park in this Central Washington community.
The attack left the beaten victim,
bleeding from 34 stab wounds, crying out that he was dying, Grant County
Superior Court jurors were told.
Savoie showed no emotion when the
verdict was read. His lawyers patted him on the back and hugged him
before he was led away.
Sentencing was set for June 5.
Defense attorney Randy Smith vowed to appeal, saying he was "a little
shocked" at the verdict.
"I really thought we had created
some reasonable doubt," Smith said. "I thought at the very least that
the state had not come close to even proving premeditation."
Savoie had repeatedly proclaimed
his innocence, saying Sorger fell from a tree and that he left him
injured — without a pulse — on a wooded trail, but did not kill him.
The key to the prosecution's case
was the testimony of Jake Eakin, another playmate who pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder by complicity last year, two years after the murder.
He is currently serving 14 years in prison.
Prosecutors alleged Savoie had
planned to go on a killing spree. They told jurors he had blood on his
clothes, access to knives and lied to investigators, at one point
deliberately leading searchers away from Sorger's body and admitting
that in a taped interview.
Eakin eventually led investigators
to the murder weapon and pointed to Savoie as the killer. On the witness
stand, he described the brief attack in wrenching detail, saying Sorger
repeatedly cried out: "Why are you doing this to me?" and said he was
Lisa Sorger, the victim's mother,
was not in court when the verdict was read but hugged prosecutors
outside immediately afterward. Some other family members clutched photos
of Craig Sorger and cried.
"I'm happy with the verdict. It's
just taken a long time — too long," Sorger said, sighing and fighting
tears. "Nothing's going to bring Craig back, but at least we've finally
Sorger also said her family has
forgiven Eakin, whose family has pledged to regularly clean up the
wooded area where Craig was killed, to help maintain a memorial there.
"They have been extremely
supportive and remorseful," she said. Of Eakin, she said, "It took him
awhile, but he did the right thing."
Prosecutors charged Savoie with
first-degree murder within days of the slaying.
Jurors, who deliberated nearly 10
hours over two days, decided Thursday that Savoie committed the murder,
but spent Friday deliberating whether the slaying was premeditated,
juror Shane Gibbons said afterward.
"It was emotional. There were a
couple who were crying. It was a big burden to make that decision for
someone so young," he said.
Gibbons also said he was surprised
at Savoie's reaction to the verdict. "He didn't even flinch when they
read guilty. He didn't even bat an eye," he said.
Grant County Prosecutor John
Knodell commended jurors for a thorough job of evaluating the evidence,
including more than 400 exhibits.
"I concluded a long time ago this
young man was guilty, and I'm gratified that 12 citizens agreed,"
But Savoie's mother, Holly Parent,
said jurors were limited in the information they had to consider.
"He's innocent," she declared, "and
I hope the prosecutor's real proud of himself for just convicting an
Eakin takes stand in
Ephrata murder trial
Dininny - The Seatle Times
The Associated Press
Friday, April 14, 2006
EPHRATA, Wash. - In chilling detail Friday, a teenager described how his
best friend brutally attacked a playmate three years ago, repeatedly
knocking him to the ground and hitting him while the victim, struggling
to escape, cried out that he was dying.
Jake Lee Eakin, 14, is accused in the
Feb. 15, 2003, slaying of Craig Sorger, a special education student who
was beaten and stabbed repeatedly.
Jake Eakin, 15,
testified for a little more than two hours in
the first-degree murder trial of his friend,
Evan Savoie, also 15. Savoie is being tried as
an adult in the Feb. 15, 2003, slaying of Craig
Sorger, a special education student.
was found beaten and stabbed 34 times in an
Ephrata recreational vehicle park.
Wearing handcuffs, eyeglasses and
slicked-back, shoulder-length hair, a pale Eakin trembled at times as he
described from the witness stand the rainy day he and Savoie went to the
park to play. At one point, Savoie pulled a knife out of his pocket and
told Eakin he "wanted to go on a killing spree."
Minutes later, the boys went to
Sorger's nearby travel trailer, where his family was living, to ask him
to play. Eakin said they roamed the park, playing near a canal, for
several minutes before stopping to build a fort in a wooded area.
Savoie then asked Sorger to feel
the ground to see if it was wet. He told Sorger to touch the ground for
10 seconds; Sorger got on his knees and began counting to 10. At nine,
Savoie dropped a rock the "size of a basketball" on the back of Sorger's
neck, knocking the boy to the ground, Eakin said.
Eakin paused as he recalled the
look of pain on Sorger's face, taking his only long look at Savoie.
Savoie did not glance up from writing on a legal pad.
"I got up and tried to stop him. I
just told him, I just got up and I was like, 'Stop,"' Eakin said. "He
Savoie then began hitting Sorger -
perhaps more than 30 times, Eakin said. Several times Sorger tried to
get away, crying out, "Why are you doing this to me," but Savoie
repeatedly pulled him back to the ground and continued striking him.
Eakin said he didn't see anything in Savoie's hand, but did see blood
coming from Savoie's neck as the boy cried out.
"He was saying that he was dying,"
Eakin said. "He was face down. Evan was on top on his knees."
The attack lasted just minutes,
after which Sorger remained motionless on the ground, Eakin said.
Looking down at his hands on his lap, and flushing slightly, Eakin then
recounted how he picked up a stick and began hitting Sorger in the head
and legs more than 20 times before throwing the stick to the ground.
Savoie said nothing, Eakin said.
"He walked to me and he shook my hand."
Eakin is the key witness in the
prosecution's case against Savoie, who could face a maximum of 26 years
in prison if convicted.
Eakin and Savoie spent months
proclaiming their innocence, first saying they had last seen Sorger
walking toward home from the park. They later said Sorger had fallen
from a tree.
After the attack, Savoie threw
something in the pond, Eakin said, then washed his clothes and hands,
face and hair in the water. He said Savoie left a shirt and sweatshirt
in the pond.
Walking home, Savoie mentioned
that the police would probably talk to them, Eakin said.
"We just came up with a plan, that
we would tell the police we were playing football and that Craig went
home," he said.
Defense attorney Randy Smith
questioned him for only about 40 minutes, clarifying that Eakin never
saw a knife in Savoie's hand.
Smith also focused only briefly on
Eakin's repeated story changes during the investigation. In 2004, when a
plea deal was mentioned, Eakin altered his account, saying he had
stepped away to buy a soda and returned to the wooded area to find
Savoie attacking Sorger.
Eakin again changed his story a
year later, pleading guilty to second-degree murder by complicity and
pointing the finger at Savoie. He was sentenced to 14 years - six years
longer than recommended by prosecutors.
"I wanted to tell the truth," he
said under questioning from Smith. "That me and Evan killed Craig Sorger."
Asked if he was angry he received a longer
sentence, Eakin said, "No. I deserved it."
Boys Next Door
13-Year-Olds Charged With Murder
Talk Exclusively To 60 Minutes II
July 22, 2005
Feb. 15, 2003, Craig Sorger, 13, was found
It was a
chilling crime. He had been beaten and stabbed. The small town of
Ephrata, Wash., was stunned when his two 12-year-old playmates were
arrested and charged with his murder.
their age, the judge decided they should be tried as adults, saying
that, if guilty, the crime was so gruesome he doubted rehabilitation in
the juvenile system was possible – and the community needed to be
Savoie and Jake Eakin are now among the youngest murder defendants ever
to be tried as adults, but the two boys continue to insist they’re
hadn’t spoken publicly until they sat down with Correspondent Vicki
Mabrey last year.
60 Minutes II met Jake Eakin, he was small for his age -- 4
foot 10 inches, and 75 pounds. He turned 13 behind bars in November
2003, in the Grant County Youth Services Detention Center.
I’m a kid,” says Jake, who admits he’s not ready to handle the courts
and judges as an adult.
Savoie, then 13, was Jake’s best friend and also his co-defendant. He’s
grown 5 inches and gained 25 pounds since being locked up 14 months
“I was a
lot shorter then, and it [my voice] was kind of girly,” says Evan, who
adds that he and Jake are the youngest kids in the detention center and
the ones accused of committing the most serious crime.
did two boys just out of elementary school wind up charged with
first-degree murder? It all began the afternoon of Feb. 15, 2003, when
Lisa Sorger was home with her two sons.
was a knock on the door. And I answered the door. And there were two
boys in hooded sweatshirts that asked if Craig could come out and play,”
recalls Lisa Sorger.
the first time Evan and Jake had knocked on Craig’s door. Craig was
considered learning disabled and he had once been diagnosed as slightly
of course, heard, because he was sitting right there. And he goes, ‘Oh,
yes, Mom. Can I go out and play please? Can I go out?’ And I said OK.
And he said, ‘Thanks, Mom,’ and gave me a hug and a kiss, and went out
the door,” says Lisa. “No one really came over and asked him to play.”
fell, Lisa began to worry. Craig was terrified of the dark and would
never stay out past dusk. When she discovered that Evan and Jake had
returned home hours earlier, she called police who began searching the
park where the boys had played.
Lisa discovered that Craig had been found on one of the trails. “I
touched him, and I said, ‘He’s still warm,’” recalls Lisa. “And they
said, ‘That’s because he was rolled over into the leaves, and the leaves
had retained his body heat.’ I knew he wasn’t alive.”
police questioned the boys that night, they said they’d been climbing
trees and playing tag. They’d last seen Craig heading home around 4:30
the questioning, Evan’s mother, Holly Parent, noticed her son had
changed his shoes.
morning I got up and went into the bathroom, picking up laundry. And I
found his shoes on the bathroom floor. And they were wet. And so that's
when I brought them out,” says Holly. “And I said, ‘What actually
happened?’ And then that's when he said, ‘I gotta talk to you in the
bedroom, Evan told his stepfather, Andy Parent, a different story. He
said Craig had fallen while climbing a tree. Evan said that while
checking for a pulse and a heartbeat, he got Craig’s blood all over him.
He was afraid of getting in trouble, he said, so he jumped in a nearby
pond to wash off the blood and buried his sweatshirt in the water. His
mother called police in tears and brought them his shoes.
to raise them to be honest and tell the truth. But when they’re in shock
like that, they just saw their friend fall,” says Holly. “He’s got blood
coming out the back of his head. They were scared.”
police questioned Jake again, he also said that Craig fell from a tree,
but in his version, he and Evan were on the branch with Craig at the
time of the accident. Then, the autopsy came in.
been beaten, I believe they said approximately 16 times to the head and
neck,” says Lisa. “And he had been stabbed 34 times in the head and
neck. And he had eight stab wounds to his torso.”
they said they are innocent, Evan and Jake were charged with
first-degree murder and were each being held on $1 million bail. DNA
testing on the sweatshirt pulled from the pond was inconclusive, but
Craig's blood was found on Evan's T-shirt. Both families insist that
someone else must have come along and stabbed Craig after he fell from
changed his story again to say he was getting sodas when Craig fell,
even though small amounts of Craig’s blood were found on his jacket. His
mother, Tammy Vickery, says if he were guilty, there would have been
more: “If somebody’s been stabbed 34 times, and then beat with a stick
16 times, you’re going to have more than one speck of blood on you …
Deep down in my heart, my son, I know he’s innocent.”
for both boys let them talk to 60 Minutes II, but not
about the details of that day.
believe he deserves to be incarcerated? “I don’t think so, no. But as
you can tell, quite a few other people have different opinions. So my
opinion is no,” says Evan.
he understand the charges he now faces? “I know it’s a really high
charge, I mean the highest, unless you go and do something to the
president," says Evan. "Things could get really ugly, doing time in jail
or prison. This ain't quite as bad as prison. But I don't like it, but
see I haven't been found guilty yet or innocent or whatever. I haven't
had my trial yet.”
don’t seem to have is a motive. Why would these two 12-year-old boys do
something so horrible?
accounts, the two boys, who were family friends, got in only minor
trouble at school. They weren’t obsessed with violent video games or
movies. But Jake, who was sometimes picked on because of his size,
couldn’t read and was in special education classes.
describes himself as a good kid: “I talked a little bit ... I was pretty
the class clown and popular at school. He was the one who met Craig
first and introduced him to Jake, even though they had only played
together a few times. By most accounts, Evan was the leader in their
pretty cool, actually. We could talk about anything we really wanted to,
you know. You wouldn't be shy about talking to him about it,” says Jake,
who calls Evan his best friend. “To one of your other friends you would
try to act like you were actually bigger. You didn't have to act like
that to Evan.”
not really [my] best friend. I think one step lower. I call him my
step-friend,” explains Evan. “I don't know why, I just made up the name
step-friend. So that’s what I call him.”
60 Minutes II met with the boys, they supported each other in
the face of the prosecution. But as police and neighbors tried to
understand what had happened, they were haunted by a simple question: If
they’re guilty, then why would they do such a thing
psychologist Eric Johnson spent hours interviewing them for the state.
He found that the boys weren’t psychopaths, and didn’t have major
behavioral or emotional problems.
look like little boys, they act like little boys. They're actually
described as being nice, polite. Kids that have friends that, like other
people, that relate well to their families,” says Johnson.
rare, it's very unusual. But it happens. There are cases of other kids,
other instances of very unexplainable violent behavior. They're trying
to understand violence. They're trying to decide how they feel about
violence, if they're capable of violence.”
found something disturbing in Jake’s sixth-grade journal, on a page so
riddled with misspellings that it’s barely legible. Jake named the book
“Sniper” after the Washington, D.C., area shooters, and said they were
his “idols" because “the sniper killed 13 people and they couldn’t find
out who it was.”
believe we have the right persons in custody and the right persons
charged,” says prosecutor Ed Owens, who told60 Minutes II
the boys should be tried as adults because of the violent nature of the
crime – and the vulnerability of the victim.
crime, however, wasn’t reason enough for Johnson, the prosecution’s
expert, who went against the state and recommended that, based on their
psychological profiles, Evan and Jake should remain in the juvenile
system. This way, if the boys were found guilty, they’d get treatment
until their release at 21.
boys are found guilty, and they targeted a child who was a little bit
different, then why wouldn’t Johnson want to lock them away for as long
obviously not my job to decide. But I do think that we need to decide as
a society what we're going to do. Are there ever occasions where kids
can make a mistake and be given another chance? Is there ever a violent
crime where a child can learn from it? Profit from experience and
treatment, and still lead a productive life?" asks Johnson.
reason to believe that the answer is yes to all those questions. And my
opinion was, these kids had a chance to make it. A really good chance of
making it in the juvenile system.”
year, when the judge ruled that Evan and Jake would be tried as adults,
he said that, if guilty, rehabilitation in the juvenile system seemed
unlikely, and the public should be protected.
boys added up the years they may end up spending behind bars? “Well, my
lawyer told me it could be 30-35 years,” says Evan.
would they be then, when they got out of jail? “48,” says Jake, who
can’t imagine being that age. “My dad’s not even that old.”
boys have no prior convictions, their sentence would likely be 20-26
years, if they are found guilty in adult court. This spring, they ran
out of appeals. Their case will remain in adult court.
are people who think – as young as you are – you definitely should not
be tried as an adult,” Mabrey tells Evan. “What do you say?”
give an honest opinion. If a person any age could commit that kind of
crime, then I'm almost positive, I think they should be charged as an
adult. But since I know I didn't, so I shouldn't,” says Evan.
who is able to commit murder has to be a little odd in the head, I guess
you could say, like [Ted] Bundy, the serial killer. Yeah. He’s a little
odd. I know this is only one person and one person isn’t a serial
killer. But still, anyone can do it once, they can do it again. And I
think they should be locked up for as long as they could.”
weeks ago, Jake Eakin changed his story. He pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder by complicity and agreed to testify that Evan
Savoie killed Craig Sorger when Savoie goes to trial in November.
sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Jake Eakin's unedited statement:
I'm sorry that I had to bring so much pane and broken
harts to your family. I just wish that I could do something to fill in
the missing hole in your family. But I made a mistake that made that
hole, but I want to tell your family that I, I'm sorry and didn't know
what I was doing. I wish that one day I might get forgived for what I
have done, but I know deep down that will never happen. Because of all
the tears that have been cried since that day. Some from me, the night
mares that I have had, and I new that they would always be there,
because I was lying, laying to everyone and making more pane for
everyone. But then I thought that it was about time I came forward with
what happened so long ago, I didn't want you family to wonder what
happened any longer and since that I day I have regreded my part of
everything. I don't want your family to wonder any longer, I want you to
know the truth, I couldn't hold it in any longer, couldn't hide the pane
that I had made, so I tell you that I'm sorry for makeing this pane.
I'm sorry Mrs. Sorger. I'm sorry Mr. Sorger. I'm sorry
Keith Sorger, and everyone that has been hurt by what I have done.
Youth confesses to role in murder;
14-year sentence surprises courtroom
Jonathan Martin - The Seattle Times
EPHRATA — For more than two years, the murder of 13-year-old Craig
Sorger lingered as a provocative mystery.
12-year-old boys charged with the killing were the state's youngest
murder defendants tried as adults since 1931. They maintained their
innocence during 26 months in jail while awaiting trial.
mystery ended yesterday in a packed courtroom.
Jake Lee Eakin, 14, saying his conscience was stained by his own lies,
gave a dramatic confession in Grant County Superior Court as he pleaded
guilty to being an accomplice to the killing.
a confession recited by his lawyer, Eakin described watching his former
fishing buddy, Evan Savoie, drop a rock on Sorger's head, then standing
by as Savoie repeatedly stabbed Sorger. After being taunted by Savoie,
Eakin said, he picked up a stick and pummeled Sorger until it broke.
Then he picked up another stick and continued the beating.
Grant County prosecutors said they found that Eakin's confession matched
the physical evidence of the killing. As part of Eakin's plea, Grant
County Prosecutor John Knodell agreed to ask for an exceptionally low
eight-year sentence, less than the standard-range penalty of between 10
and 18 years. The deal would have kept Eakin solely in juvenile
Grant County Superior Court Judge Ken Jorgensen ignored that
recommendation, instead sentencing Eakin to more than 14 years. Eakin's
family gasped, "Oh, no," as Jorgensen ruled from the bench. Under the
sentence, Eakin will be transferred to an adult prison at age 18.
Jorgensen said Eakin is a lot smarter than his IQ, which was tested to
be 93, would indicate, and his age and competency level are not
"There's been a lot of discussion about the maturity of the boys
involved," Jorgensen said. "By 12, you understand what it means to hurt,
and to hurt someone. So that doesn't enter into a court's thinking at
During the hearing, Eakin, a diminutive 5-foot-1 and 98 pounds,
apologized as Sorger's mother and father sobbed. One row behind them,
Eakin's mother also broke down. She had been convinced that her son was
wrongly charged until the hearing.
just wish that I could do something to fill in the missing hole in your
family, but I made a mistake that made that hole," Eakin said, with
little emotion. "I didn't want your family to wonder any longer. I want
you to know the truth ... I'm sorry, Mrs. Sorger. I'm sorry, Mr. Sorger."
After the hearing, Michele Shaw, Eakin's lawyer, said the Grant County
prosecutor had agreed to jointly ask Jorgensen to reconsider the
sentence. In a court filing, she argued that Eakin's learning
disabilities and physical and emotional immaturity make him a good
candidate for juvenile rehabilitation.
"The court focused on whether Jake knew right from wrong, and not the
fact that Craig was dead when Jake picked up the stick," Shaw said. "I
respectfully disagree with the court's opinion."
Deputy prosecutor Ed Owens declined to talk after the hearing. "I have
another trial to think about," he said.
Eakin is likely to be a primary witness when Savoie goes to trial May
16. Savoie's attorney, who watched the hearing, left without talking to
Sorger's mother, Lisa Sorger, also declined to talk. "It's not over yet.
It's just the beginning," she said.
Craig was her oldest boy, a special-education student who was slight in
stature, with blond hair. Craig jumped at the chance to go play in the
park that day with Savoie and Eakin, two more popular boys.
Sorger's murder in Oasis Park on Feb. 15, 2003, divided the community
here. Eakin and Savoie were the last to see Sorger alive, and were the
sole suspects after their stories shifted under questioning by Ephrata
Savoie's clothes were soaked with Sorger's blood, and police later found
the murder weapon, a folding pocket knife, in the park's pond.
the boys appeared to be unlikely killers. Neither had a criminal history
or mental illness. The Grant County judge who ordered them tried as
adults dismissed recommendations from psychologists hired by the defense
and prosecution to keep the boys in juvenile court.
state Supreme Court in February declined to hear the case — or to
revisit state laws allowing juveniles to be tried as adults.
Eakin's confession casts the slaying in a new light. In a series of
interviews with prosecutors over the past week, Eakin said Savoie
planned to kill Sorger and the owner of a trailer court near the park
that day; the second part of the plan was not carried out.
"I'm going to do it today, I'm going to do it now," Savoie told Eakin,
according to the confession.
Sorger tried at least twice to run from his attackers. "Why are you
doing this to me? Why are you doing this to me?" he cried, according to
After goading him into bludgeoning Sorger with the taunt of "faggot,"
Eakin said, a blood-soaked Savoie shook his hand and told him to shut up
about what they had just done.
Until yesterday, Eakin's family was so convinced of his innocence that
they campaigned against the prosecution on a Web site for juvenile
"It's been an absolute shock to everybody," said Eakin's grandmother,
Phyllis LaMear. "My grandson has never lied to me."
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, cited the case and scientific
research on juvenile brain development in pushing through a bill in this
year's legislative session that would waive mandatory minimum sentences
for juveniles charged with serious adult crimes. It passed both houses
unanimously, and is awaiting action by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
14-Year-Old Pleads Guilty To Ephrata
April 28, 2005
EPHRATA, Wash. -- A 14-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to murdering
another boy in Ephrata.
Jake Eakin was then sentenced Thursday in Grant County Superior Court to
14 years in prison.
Eakin had originally pleaded innocent to first-degree murder but changed
his plea today to guilty to second-degree murder. He apologized to the
victim's family in court for the pain he has caused.
Eakin also gave a statement admitting his involvement in the crime he
says was committed by Evan Savoi.
Prosecutors say they stabbed and beat 13-year-old Craig Sorger in 2003
in a park.
Eakin and Savoi were both 12 years old at the time. They were believed
to be the youngest murder defendants charged as adults in state history.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Savoi has filed a motion asking for the murder
charge against him to be dismissed.
Families of all three boys were in court today, crying.
A question of age, a matter of justice
By Jonathan Martin - The Seattle Times
June 9, 2004
EPHRATA — The 50-cent words flying around Grant
County courtrooms over the past year mostly blew right over Jake Lee
Eakin's head: Remorse. Presumption of innocence. Appeal.
His confusion may have been understandable.
At the time of his arrest for the killing of a
playmate last February, he was an immature 12-year-old with an 83 IQ and
a learning disability so severe he spelled "people" as "pepell."
"When the judge starts talking, I don't know what
he's saying mostly," said Eakin last week at the Grant County juvenile-detention
center, his 70-pound frame floating in a prison-issue jumpsuit
He does know, however, that a ruling in March made
him the youngest person in recent history to be eligible for trial as
an adult for murder in Washington.
Attorneys for Eakin and a co-defendant, Evan Drake
Savoie, asked the state Court of Appeals yesterday to overturn the
ruling on the grounds that it "threatens the very foundational purposes"
of Washington's separate adult and juvenile-justice systems.
The judge, Grant County's John Antosz, set an "an
impossible standard" by requiring assurance that the boys would not re-offend
if treated and released from juvenile custody, said Monty Hormel,
"The judge's finding in regard to sending these lads
on to adult jurisdiction makes it meaningless for a person to be a child,"
he said during the hearing.
Grant County deputy prosecutor Teresa Chen said the
judge used the correct standard, a 1960 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, by
demanding a likelihood, not an assurance, of rehabilitation. "Although
there is a tendency to second-guess someone's decision in a case ...
where the children are so young, the court's decision is tenable and
should be upheld," she said.
It's now up to Court of Appeals Commissioner Joyce
McCown to decide if the case will be accepted for a full review.
Eakin and Savoie, also 12 at the time, were arrested
in February 2003, suspected of stabbing and bludgeoning a 13-year-old
playmate, Craig Sorger, in Ephrata's Oasis Park.
Prosecutors said last week that the state crime lab
had matched a knife tip embedded in Sorger's skull with a pocket knife
police recently dredged from the park's pond. Police are investigating
where the knife came from.
Unlike other landmark Washington cases involving
adolescent murder defendants, Eakin and Savoie have clean records.
Fishing buddies since childhood, they passed hours pretending they were
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in NASCAR video games.
There were no telltale signs of potential problems.
Neither has a history of arrest, running away, smoking, drinking, mental
illness or serious school misconduct before his arrest. Like Eakin,
Savoie was a special-education student, with an IQ well below average.
The dichotomy of the case — young defendants with
clean records accused of a gruesome crime — troubles those involved.
Eric Johnson, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, recommended that
the boys be tried as juveniles because they appeared to be normal but
also called the case "one of the most perplexing, unnecessary and
violent offenses" he'd seen in 20 years of working with juvenile
Eakin's special-education teacher, Marie Noyes, said
Eakin was a modestly popular kid and average student, except for huge
problems in reading and math. "(Eakin) seemed like an average kid," she
said. "To me that's what's so weird."
A stark choice
In his 42-page ruling, Judge Antosz wrote that, should the boys be
convicted, no treatment in the juvenile justice system would likely
rehabilitate them, while a long sentence in an adult jail would ensure
The appeals court would not normally intervene
until after the trial, scheduled for September. But the boys'
attorneys appealed immediately, saying a hearing should be held while
they were still young enough to be sent back to juvenile court.
The "declination process" is controversial because it
is akin to holding a sentencing hearing before the trial even begins,
said Andrew Carter, a Seattle University law professor who is following
the case. With Eakin and Savoie, Judge Antosz faced a difficult choice:
Should the boys, if found guilty, be subject to a juvenile sentence that
would free them at age 21, or a mandatory adult sentence of at least 20
At least 16 states have given judges more freedom in
sentencing, but the state Legislature has kept what Carter calls an "all-or-nothing"
choice. Antosz' decision was more difficult because neither Eakin nor
Savoie confessed, which is common in such cases, Carter said.
"In this particular case, we don't really know
anything about the crime," Carter said. "The court basically presumed
they were equal participants. The injustice that could arise here is
that one boy was very passive, and could be a great candidate for
juvenile jurisdiction, but by then it would be too late."
Ed Owens, a Grant County deputy prosecutor, said plenty is known about
the defendants he calls "predators." The prosecutor said both boys lied
about the crime initially, then said they saw Sorger fall from a tree
while the three were building a fort. Savoie intentionally led police
away from Sorger's body when officers searched the park, fearful he
would be blamed.
An autopsy found five deep knife wounds on Sorger's body, as well as
dozens more cuts and evidence that he was struck 16 times with a tree
The Washington State Patrol crime lab found
Sorger's DNA on Savoie's blood-stained sweatshirt and shirt, which
police retrieved from the pond where the knife was discovered. Savoie
told police he got the blood on him while checking for Sorger's pulse.
Eakin initially gave a similar version but, after
months in jail, changed his story. He said he'd run to get sodas and
came back to find Savoie over Sorger's body. He then pointed police to a
spot in the park's pond where he said he saw Savoie throw an object into
That was where police found the weapon, a wood-handled
Bar Creek knife, Owens said. "Eakin told us where to find it," he said.
Echoing Antosz's ruling, Owens said the boys' lack of
underlying problems, such as mental illness, makes them poor candidates
for treatment in juvenile jails. "We don't know why this happened," he
said. "What would you treat them for?"
"I'm a kid"
Eakin, the smaller of the defendants, has grown three inches in
custody. Fellow inmates taunt him with a rhyme: "Hey Jake, why'd you
kill the kid by the lake?"
"This isn't a good place," he said, slumped into a
chair in Grant County's juvenile-detention center. He responds to
questions with short answers, aiming his words at his hands folded in
front of him. "I don't know why I'm here."
He gets nightly visits from his mother, Tammy Vickery;
his step-father; and three brothers. Eakin understands about half of his
legal proceedings, Vickery said, and has asked her why some kids are
tried as adults while others go to juvenile court.
"Before the declination hearing, he said to me, 'There's
no way they'll try me as an adult, I'm a kid,' " Vickery said. "It blew
If Eakin has a hard time understanding, it's in part
due to his age and the typical brain development of a child his age —
factors that would influence his decision-making and judgment, said
Steven Drizin, a juvenile-justice expert at Northwestern University's
"Most of the research suggests there are serious
questions about competency of 14-year-olds," he said.
"Certainly 13 and younger function like mentally
retarded adults in their level of functioning."
As for 12-year-olds, Drizin said, they are "simply
not as culpable as adults for their criminal behavior."
While in custody, Eakin has had little to do but read
and play his Gameboy. His reading has improved from a first-grade to a
third-grade level. Asked if he knew what it meant to be tried as an
adult, he fumbled for words.
"The difference is like, you get different ... like
rights, bigger time, stuff like that," Eakin said. "It's messed up."