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Evan Drake SAVOIE





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (12)
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 15, 2003
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1990
Victim profile: Craig M. Sorger, 13 (special education student)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Ephrata, Grant County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 26 years in prison — the maximum sentence that could be imposed, on July 11, 2006

photo gallery


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.

The Crime

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.

The Autopsy

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

By Shannon 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.

Savoie 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.

Defense 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."

Jorgensen 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."

Holly Parent, 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."


Jury convicts Ephrata teen of killing disabled playmate

By Shannon 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 dying.

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 gotten justice."

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," Knodell said.

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 innocent boy."


Eakin takes stand in Ephrata murder trial

By Shannon 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.

Sorger, 13, 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 pushed me."

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

CBS News

July 22, 2005

On Feb. 15, 2003, Craig Sorger, 13, was found murdered.

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.

Despite 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 protected.

Evan 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 innocent.

The boys hadn’t spoken publicly until they sat down with Correspondent Vicki Mabrey last year.

When 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 know I’m a kid,” says Jake, who admits he’s not ready to handle the courts and judges as an adult.

Evan 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 earlier.

“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.

So how 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.

“There 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.

It was 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 autistic.

“Craig, 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.”

As night 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.

Then, 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.”

When 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 p.m.

During the questioning, Evan’s mother, Holly Parent, noticed her son had changed his shoes.

“The next 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.’”

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.

“You try 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.”

When 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.

“He had 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.”

Although 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 the tree.

But Jake 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.”

Lawyers for both boys let them talk to 60 Minutes II, but not about the details of that day.

Does Evan 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.

And does 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.”

What they don’t seem to have is a motive. Why would these two 12-year-old boys do something so horrible?

By most 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.

Jake describes himself as a good kid: “I talked a little bit ... I was pretty friendly.”

Evan was 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 friendship.

“He's 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.”

“[Jake’s] 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.”

When 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

Forensic 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.

“They 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.

“It's 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.”

Police 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.”

“We 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.

The 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.

If the 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 as possible?

“That’s 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.

“There's 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.”

Last 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.

Have the 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.

How old 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.”

Since the 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.

“There 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?”

“I would 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.

“…Anyone 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.”

A few 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. Eakin was 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

By Jonathan Martin - The Seattle Times

April 29, 2005

EPHRATA — For more than two years, the murder of 13-year-old Craig Sorger lingered as a provocative mystery.

Two 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.

The 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.

In 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 facilities.

But 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 mitigating factors.

"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 all."

Tears flow

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.

"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," 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 reporters.

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 police.

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.

But 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.

The state Supreme Court in February declined to hear the case — or to revisit state laws allowing juveniles to be tried as adults.

Killing planned?

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 the confession.

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 murder defendants.

"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 Murder

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, Savoie's attorney.

"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 offenders.

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 public safety.

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 years.

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."

Weapon found

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 branch.

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 the water.

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 him away."

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 law school.

"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."



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