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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nooksack Tribal Member Sentenced to 23+Years in Prison for Ax Murder

Killing Occurred During Botched Burglary

An enrolled member of the Nooksack Tribe was sentenced October 11, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 280 months (23+ years) in prison for 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.  Charles pleaded guilty on June 6, 2013.  U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones imposed five years of supervised release following the 23+ year 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 was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.

Updated March 23, 2015