Crime

Shooting self-defense, county says

Julia May Jones, 22, walks into the Superior Courtroom Monday for her arraignment on a charge of first-degree burglary with a firearm enhancement. A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf.
Julia May Jones, 22, walks into the Superior Courtroom Monday for her arraignment on a charge of first-degree burglary with a firearm enhancement. A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf. The Olympian

Pierce County prosecutors said Monday that they will not file charges in the shooting death of a man killed on the Key Peninsula during a gunfight over a drug deal.

The three men who were inside a Lakebay house Thursday night when it was stormed by a group carrying shotguns, handguns and knives fired in justifiable self-defense, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Monday.

“You break into somebody’s house with a gun, you take the chance you’re going to get shot,” Lindquist said. “That’s what happened here.”

Rhett Whitchurch , 44, of White Center was shot to death just inside the front door of 28-year-old James Scott’s home in the 19100 block of Second Street.

On Monday, two of Whitchurch’s cohorts were arraigned in Superior Court in connection with the shootout.

A plea of not guilty was entered on behalf of 22-year-old Julia May Jones, who is accused of buying the Oxycontin from Scott and driving the getaway truck. She was charged with attempted first-degree burglary with a firearm enhancement. Her bail was set at $500,000.

Justin Dale Hill, 27, pleaded not guilty to the same charge, as well as to first-degree assault with a firearm enhancement and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. His bail was set at $750,000 because he is a convicted felon.

Hill entered the courtroom on crutches because he was shot in the leg in the attack on the house. He shook his head as the charges were read.

Hill exclaimed loudly and leaned over to talk to his attorney after deputy prosecuting attorney Phil Sorensen mentioned that Hill has prior convictions for forgery, eluding law enforcement, reckless driving, driving under the influence and fighting in Arizona and Colorado.

There is still possibly one suspect who has not been identified or caught.

Lindquist hasn’t decided whether to charge Scott, his 20-year-old brother Tyler and 29-year-old Jeffrey Hacker – who were all inside the home – with drug-related charges in connection with the Oxycontin sales or the 25 full-grown marijuana plants sheriff’s deputies found in a mobile home on the property.

“The question of whether or not there was drug dealing going on is a separate issue,” Lindquist said.

Investigators say the sale of Oxycontin sparked the home invasion and gunfight that startled neighbors close enough to hear more than 50 shots fired.

Prosecutors said Jones, who is acquainted with James Scott, arranged to buy Oxycontin from him in the Auburn area. She was accompanied by two other women.

Oxycontin often is crushed and smoked by drug addicts, according to court documents. To prevent abuse, the prescription drug recently has been remanufactured to turn into a gel if smashed up.

The drug sold to Jones and her friends turned into gel, charging documents state.

“Ms. Jones’ friends, who provided the monies for the purchase, were not happy,” prosecutors said in the documents.

Here’s what investigators say happened next:

Whitchurch and Hill accompanied Jones to the Lakebay home where the Scott brothers lived with Hacker. Tyler Scott was outside when they arrived and ran toward the home to warn the others when he saw the group, who were clad in camouflage gear and heavily armed.

Shots were fired as Whitchurch and Hill followed Scott into the house. Whitchurch was the first one shot and died in the doorway. James Scott was shot in the shoulder as he moved toward the door to confront the intruders.

Somebody then shot Hill in the leg and he went outside to tell Jones to flee. She was arrested at a nearby house after the incident when she called 911 for help.

Moments after the shooting, a blood-covered James Scott hopped the fence separating his property from his parents’ and told them he had been shot and had just shot a man who might be dead.

“When asked what this was about, James said he had no idea,” charging documents state.

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