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An enrolled member of the Nooksack Tribe pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to second degree murder, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. LEVI EUGENE CHARLES, 26, admitted that he killed Sauk-Suiattle Tribal member Kenneth Joseph by striking him in the head and face with an ax. The murder occurred when 68-year-old Joseph awoke while CHARLES was burglarizing Joseph’s home on the Lummi reservation. Under the terms of the plea agreement, both sides will recommend a sentence between 22 and 27 years in prison when CHARLES is sentenced on August 2, 2013. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones is not bound by the recommendation and can impose any sentence up to the maximum allowed by law: a life prison term.
According to the plea agreement, CHARLES went to Joseph’s home the night of October 23, 2012. CHARLES knew Joseph and had been in the home. He admits he planned to break in and steal items to sell for cash. CHARLES picked up a miniature baseball bat outside the residence and carried it inside. Joseph heard the intruder and confronted him. CHARLES hit Joseph with the mini baseball bat multiple times and then grabbed an ax from near the front door of the house and hit the victim with that in the head and face. After killing Joseph, CHARLES threw a blanket over the body and hung blankets over the windows to conceal the crime scene. CHARLES stole an ATM card from Joseph’s wallet, and took a TV and other items from the house. CHARLES threw the small bat away in the woods and discarded the TV and other items at the end of the driveway. He used the ATM card a few hours later to take $420 from Joseph’s bank account.
CHARLES was arrested October 29, 2012 and was indicted December 19, 2012.
The case was investigated by the Lummi Police Department and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.