Local man pleads not guilty in fatal shooting of roommate
He calls it a mercy killing; prosecutors cite evidence of premeditation
Originally published March 27, 2012 at 9:56 a.m., updated March 27, 2012 at 4:59 p.m.
A 19-year-old Vancouver man pleaded not guilty Tuesday, March 27, to first-degree murder and other charges in the death of his roommate, which the suspect described to police as a mercy killing.
Matthew E. Starr was arraigned on two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and possession of marijuana.
Judge Rich Melnick set trial for Aug. 13.
Prosecutors have said — despite Starr’s claim that he “put his friend out of misery” after 25-year-old Joshua Schenk was accidentally shot during target shooting — that there’s evidence of premeditation.
Prosecutors allege two separate theories for the two murder charges: the first count alleges Starr acted with premeditated intent to kill Schenk; the second count, felony murder, alleges the crime was committed during the course of a robbery, according to charging papers.
For felony murder, prosecutors aren’t required to prove intent; they only need to prove a separate felony was committed at the time of the killing.
Schenk’s body was discovered March 2 by a passer-by near Vancouver Lake, past the end of Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway. While being interviewed by Vancouver police investigators, Starr said he, Schenk and two others went target shooting on Feb. 29 near Vancouver Lake. Starr said that as they were walking, he stumbled, accidentally discharging his rifle because his finger had been on the trigger, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The bullet hit Schenk in the back of the head.
Starr said to police he realized Schenk was suffering so he shot him again “like you would a deer” that was injured and suffering, according to the affidavit.
Starr also told investigators that he took $300 from Schenk’s wallet after he was dead. He also was allegedly found with one pound of marijuana in his possession when he was contacted by police.