Saturday, April 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jury convicts Ephrata teen of killing disabled playmate

The Associated Press

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."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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