Man alleges fatal shot was act of mercy

He faces first degree murder charge in death of his roommate

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: March 5, 2012, 9:48 PM

 

The suspect alleged it was a mercy killing; a detective and a prosecutor call it premeditated murder.

Mathew E. Starr, 19, made his first appearance Monday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of his roommate.

The body of 25-year-old Joshua R. Schenk was discovered March 2 by a passer-by near Vancouver Lake, past the end of Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed by Detective Wally Stefan of the Vancouver Police Department, investigators interviewed Schenk’s roommates, including Starr, after the discovery of the body.

Starr allegedly said he, Schenk and two others went target shooting on Feb. 29 near Vancouver Lake. As the four men were walking, Starr said he stumbled, accidentally discharging his rifle because his finger had been on the trigger. The bullet struck Schenk in the back of the head, he said, and Schenk dropped to the ground.

“Starr said that he felt Schenk may be suffering and knew that emergency help was more than ‘five minutes’ away,” Stefan wrote. “Starr said he subsequently shot Joshua Schenk again, intentionally, in the top of the head, ‘like you would a deer’ that was injured or suffering. Starr said he shot his friend the second time to put his friend out of his misery,” Stefan wrote.

Starr was arrested Saturday and booked into the Clark County Jail, where he remains on $1 million bail.

On Monday, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kasey Vu told Judge Dan Stanhke that there’s evidence that the murder was premeditated.

Vu said he will also file a charge of robbery because Starr allegedly told investigators that after Schenk was dead, he took $300 from his wallet.

The wallet, which contained Schenk’s identification card, was left with the body.

The body was dragged five feet off a path the men had been walking on and covered with a tarp, Stefan wrote.

The investigation is ongoing.

According to court documents, Starr has no criminal history and does not work. He has a medical marijuana card and has been smoking daily since the first part of this year, according to court documents. When Starr was contacted by investigators, he had approximately one pound of marijuana in his possession.

Stahnke appointed defense attorney Gerry Wear to represent Starr.

Arraignment was set for March 16.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.