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Saturday, July 30, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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3 Years For Murder At Seatac Mall

The case involving the December shooting death of a 16-year-old boy outside SeaTac Mall concluded yesterday in a King County courtroom amid tears, death threats and a prison sentence.

Cory Charleston, 15, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Zac Spears, was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough.

Charleston, who cried during the entire 30-minute hearing, was sentenced as an adult and will spend most of his sentence in adult prison.

Emotions also ran high for Spears' family members and friends, including Preston Bentley, 18, his best friend. Choking back tears, Bentley threatened to kill Charleston when he's released.

Bentley and a friend of Charleston, who was sitting in the courtroom, then exchanged threats.

Charleston's sobbing grew louder during the altercation. "Why can't all of this stop?" he wailed.

It was Charleston's actions that began the trouble about 5 p.m. Dec. 10, McCullough pointed out before handing down the sentence, which exceeded the prosecution's request for the minimum of 10 years but was less than the maximum 13 1/2 years.

Charleston and friends, according to court documents, had exchanged gang signals with Bentley at the mall entrance. Charleston aimed his gun at Bentley but hit Spears.

The mall was crowded with holiday shoppers, and police were amazed no other bystanders were injured.

McCullough said he weighed all of those circumstances, along with testimony from counselors who said Charleston has shown extreme remorse, and Charleston's attorney, Eric Lindell, who said his client has a "boy's mind and boy's heart."

Jackie and John Spears, the victim's parents, called the judge's decision fair but said it and Charleston's apparent remorse offered little relief from their pain.

"There aren't enough sorrys in the world," said Jackie Spears, who wore a laminated photo of her son.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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