YAKIMA - Both boys - one dead from multiple gunshots to the chest and head, the other jailed on a murder charge - had struggled with the same problems, their parents say.
At a young age, both Gary Snell Jr. and Sebastian Looney had started using drugs. They both did short stays at the Sundown M Ranch recovery center near Selah, then were tossed out for breaking the rules. Police and their parents say both had apparently maintained their involvement in the drug world, culminating in a planned rip-off that ended with Snell’s death earlier this month and Looney’s arrest on Thursday.
Looney’s father, Jamie Looney of Southern California, said his blood ran cold when he read comments from Snell’s family in the Yakima Herald-Republic on Friday.
“If you changed the names in that story, the boy who got killed could have been my son,” Looney said.
Sebastian Looney’s mother, Heather Thomas of Terrace Heights, said she wished she could do something to relieve the pain felt by Snell’s family, including his father, Gary Snell Sr.
“I know how bad I’m hurting, and he has to be hurting just as bad. Drugs have taken both of our children,” Thomas said.
Sebastian Looney’s parents, both from the Lower Valley, have been divorced since he was a toddler.
Thomas echoed her ex-husband’s comments about the toll drug had taken on both sons.
“It could have gone either way. My son’s still breathing, but I’ve lost him,” she said.
Snell, 21, was last seen Dec. 4 at the Pizza Hut parking lot off 40th Avenue in Yakima.
Relatives had reported him missing soon after and told police that he was thought to be arranging a drug deal when he disappeared.
Police received information this week that led them to a Terrace Heights mobile home park, where Snell’s body was discovered Thursday under the back porch of Looney’s grandmother’s home. Detectives say they believe Looney, 20, shot Snell as part of a plan to steal from him. An autopsy Friday found that Snell had been shot multiple times, including rounds to the head and heart.
Looney was jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, for cash believed to have been taken from Snell.
Jamie Looney said his son was first found to be smoking marijuana at age 14, soon after the boy moved from Zillah to live with him near San Diego.
The father said he was finally forced to tell his son he could not live with him if he did not stop using.
Jamie Looney helped put together money so his son could attend Sundown M, but he lasted less than two weeks there, his father said.
While in California, Sebastian Looney had a chance to pursue semi-pro paintball competition, his father said, recalling driving his son across Camp Pendleton for range practice on Saturday mornings. But he never seemed to find a way to pull free from the drugs.
His father, a former Marine Corps staff sergeant who survived “pretty gnarly duty” in Afghanistan, wishes he could have helped more. At the same time, he says, he made the decisions he had to in order to protect the rest of his family.
“It’s really hard for a guy like me to think that’s the one thing in my life I couldn’t fix,” he said.
Looney’s mother said her son never showed any signs of violence. His parents describe him as a smart, charismatic kid not unlike the description offered by Snell’s relatives.
“We all have great remorse for his family,” Thomas said. “It’s not right for either boy.”