KENNEWICK — Two shots into the desert were the only warning Josh Snapp got before he was told to start praying, then killed execution-style, court documents reveal.
The 17-year-old Richland boy went with his friends, Joshua H. Hunt and John C.I. Young, to a remote area near Horn Rapids Off-Road Vehicle Park believing they were going to smoke marijuana.
But Hunt and Young had other plans for the early morning hours of July 4.
Hunt liked Snapp’s girlfriend and was jealous of their longtime relationship, especially when he saw the two together at a party the night before, even though there were reports the couple had split, documents state. The three teens later dropped the girl off at her home before driving out to Beardsley Road.
Hunt also allegedly was mad that Snapp still owed him money from a drug debt, had stolen about two ounces of marijuana from him in the past and had threatened to tell the cops that Hunt was a drug dealer.
Search warrants filed by Richland police in the investigation give some insight into what Hunt and Young claim they were thinking before they shot Snapp — a death that led dozens of relatives and teens to pack a courtroom last week, some torn between supporting the victim and the suspects.
Hunt, 19, and Young, 18, are charged in Benton County Superior Court with first-degree murder. Their trials are set for Aug. 26. Prosecutor Andy Miller alleges the Richland men acted with premeditated intent when they took turns shooting Snapp.
Snapp was shot in the chest and the head, and Coroner John Hansens has said any of the wounds could have been fatal.
Young, who initially was considered a witness to the slaying, told officers that Hunt was the only one who fired a shot. But when Hunt shared something different in his interview with detectives, Young was confronted about the lie and admitted taking the revolver from Hunt and shooting Snapp in the head while he still was alive, according to Young’s version of events in a search warrant affidavit. Young explained he did it “to put Snapp out of his misery” and compared him to “a bird with a broken wing,” Detective Damon Jansen wrote.
Young claimed his friend, Hunt, had been talking about killing Snapp for the past couple of months. However, a partygoer interviewed by police said Young had told him “that Snapp was a snitch and he was going to do something about it,” court documents said.
Hunt got the gun — a .357- or .38-caliber revolver — in mid-June “from someone by trading $100 worth of marijuana for it,” the documents state. Hunt and Young then test-fired the pistol on two separate occasions, first at Hover Park in Finley and later at Lost Lake in Benton City, not far from the eventual homicide scene.
The night of July 3, Hunt and Young went to a party at a home in Richland. Snapp showed up later, as did his former girlfriend.
Young told officers that while hanging out around Hunt’s 1992 Cadillac Deville, they saw Snapp talking to the girl and Hunt said something like, “I hate Josh so much I could kill him.” About that same time, Hunt was handling the revolver and the two were talking about how it worked, with Young showing his friend how to operate the hammer, documents said.
The two took several people home after the party. Hunt then called Snapp’s ex and they picked her up, along with Snapp. She wanted to cash a check but no stores were open, so the trio took her home some time between 4 and 5 a.m. Then they drove out to Beardsley Road.
Young claims they were smoking marijuana when Hunt confronted Snapp about talking to the police. Young got the gun out of the glove box, where he’d placed it during the party, and “fired the two rounds into the desert to show Snapp they meant business,” Hunt said when questioned by detectives.
Hunt then allegedly took the gun, told Snapp to start praying and shot him in the chest. Hunt said he gave the gun to Young and walked away, then heard another shot fired before they left together in his Cadillac, the affidavit says.
Young initially told officers that when Hunt took the gun, he shot the teen once in the chest and three times in the head, then handed it back to Young and they left. But after a detective relayed Hunt’s story to an officer with Young, he admitted firing a bullet into Snapp’s head, court documents said.
The men put the revolver back in the glove box and drove to Benton City to buy cigarettes at a Conoco gas station, with video surveillance showing Hunt going into the convenience store at 6:30 a.m., documents said. The two drove down the road to smoke the cigarettes, talk about what they’d say if contacted by police, swap out their shoes so the prints couldn’t be identified and place the shoes and gun in the car’s trunk.
They returned to the station so Hunt could gas up his Cadillac and Young could use the restroom. An employee called 911 at 7:45 a.m., saying there was a man in the store reporting that someone had been shot.
Benton County sheriff’s deputies responded and found the Cadillac parked at the gas pumps.
Hunt claims he was waiting on Young when the authorities showed up, so he grabbed a backpack and put the shoes and gun in it along with two rocks, then ran to the nearby Yakima River and threw it in. Security footage shows Hunt carrying something like a backpack as he ran from the gas station. He didn’t have the pack when he was approached by deputies while returning to his car.
“Hunt was dripping wet and later claimed he was despondent and jumped into the river himself,” the documents said.
Young, who apparently didn’t know that Hunt claimed he tossed the pack, told police they could find the shoes and gun in the car’s trunk. Since he was thought to be a witness and was cooperating with deputies at the store, Young was allowed to sit in the front passenger seat of an unmarked patrol car as he was driven to the Richland Police Department for questioning.
The backpack still hasn’t been found despite several days of searching the river.
However, a search of the car turned up not only a marijuana pipe, a weight-measuring scale and a plastic baggie and glass mason jar, both with “green, leafy material,” but also new shoe boxes with sizes that match Hunt and Young. Detectives stated in the search warrants that this corroborates information that the slaying may have been planned for months.
The search warrants covered everything from Hunt’s car and the homes of the two suspects to a trash can next to the car at the gas station.
Investigators said they were looking for the shoes believed worn during the shooting, the revolver, ammunition, receipts for the new shoes and anything mentioning Snapp. They also wanted to get a record of call logs, text messages and any relevant photographs off two cell phones recovered.
Online court records shows Hunt’s only criminal history is in Benton County District Court, which handles mostly misdemeanor cases. Young has prior convictions in Benton County’s juvenile court for delivery of a controlled substance in 2011 and residential burglary in 2012, court documents said.
In the 2011 case, Young reportedly sold $10 worth of marijuana to a person in the Richland High School parking lot, documents said. The 2012 conviction stems from an incident where Young and another teen stole jewelry from an acquaintance’s mother’s house. The acquaintance apparently “owed a debt” and acted as a lookout during the robbery.
Young has violated his probation multiple times while under supervision for the burglary conviction, court records show. He failed to complete treatment and tested positive for marijuana and cocaine.
Young’s probation counselor stated he is dependent on alcohol and marijuana and needed intensive outpatient treatment, records show. He admitted to the counselor in October that he sold marijuana for several months to support his drug habit, and later said he “smokes (pot) all the time and has pretty much given up.”
Young’s dad is a long-haul truck driver who told the counselor he has had trouble controlling his son. The dad sent Young to live with his mother — with whom Young said he has a strained relationship — in Mississippi, though he only stayed there for 30 days.
Young started smoking marijuana when he was 13 and has tried cocaine, ecstasy, psychedelic mushrooms, Ketamine and pain pills, court documents said.
Just days after his arrest on the murder, Young was back in juvenile court Monday for a review hearing on his supervision. Another hearing was set Aug. 12.
The juvenile court’s jurisdiction over Young was extended past his 18th birthday to age 21, since the burglary case was charged and resolved when he still was a juvenile, documents said.