Though he pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to prison Friday, a 37-year-old man is still maintaining he’s innocent in the July 28, 2016, shooting death of a Camano Island man.
Ezekiel “Zeke” Scannell-McCrae spoke briefly at the end of the emotional sentencing hearing in Island County Superior Court in Coupeville. He offered his condolences to the family of his victim, 34-year-old Joseph Hicks, but claimed he pulled the trigger only because he thought the other man had a weapon.
“I didn’t fire upon Mr. Hicks with malice in my heart,” he said.
Judge Vickie Churchill agreed with the joint sentence recommendation worked out by the prosecution and defense as part of the plea bargain and sent him to prison for 18 years.
Scannell-McCrae pleaded guilty by way of an Alford’s plea to murder in the second degree. An Alford’s plea means he doesn’t admit his guilt but admits that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him at trial.
Since the murder involved a gun, Scannell-McCrae’s sentence included a five-year enhancement under the the state “Hard Time for Armed Crime” law.
Scannell-McCrae’s motives for the shooting remain unclear, but the attorneys involved pointed to mental health problems, drug use and jealousy. The shooting occurred at the home of his former girlfriend.
Friday, family members of both Hicks and Scannell-McCrae spoke during the hearing.
Hicks’ family described him as a man who had a difficult childhood but had a cheery disposition that could brighten the dreariest days. He got into trouble earlier in his life but was turning things around when his life was ended so prematurely and senselessly, they said.
Hicks’ older brother took the death especially hard and turned to crime and drugs, becoming a shell of what he was, family members said.
Scannell-McCrae’s family members said they know a different man than the one who killed Hicks. They said he’s not a monster, and he’s someone who is loved.
Both Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks and defense attorney Steve McKay said the investigation on both sides was extremely thorough, as was the assessment of the facts. The defense hired five experts; both sides had forensic scientists who looked at the evidence.
Churchill pointed out that the plea bargain means the family doesn’t have to relive the painful memories through a trial. She urged Hicks’ family members to let go of the anger and hatred for their own sakes.
“Now you can go on,” she said. “Now you can drag yourselves out of this morass.”