Ki-Be student charged with conspiracy to commit murder, being tried as an adult
BENTON CITY, Wash. – A 16-year-old Kiona-Benton City High School student is now being tried as an adult after authorities said he planned to murder a classmate.
Detectives told Action News how three students conspired to commit this heinous crime.
"From what we gathered in our interviews their plan was to kill him," said Sgt. Bob Brockman of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
Sgt. Brockman said three 16-year-old Ki-Be students—two boys and one girl—planned to kill an 18-year-old classmate during lunch on Nov. 15.
Detectives said the mastermind behind the murder plan was Jeremiah Cunningham.
On Tuesday, prosecutors charged him with a felony, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree. Action News is releasing his name because he's being tried as an adult.
“They put together a plan in which they were going to lure the victim behind the Ki-Be Market, where they had determined there was no camera coverage and attack the student and stab him," Sgt. Brockman said.
However, Sgt. Brockman said the teen's murder plan unraveled when two other uninvolved student witnesses called out the suspicious attacker wearing a red mask.
"There were a couple students that saw the primary suspect in his mask and they began challenging him and chased him back into the orchard," Sgt. Brockman explained.
The 18-year-old victim was not harmed because the plan didn't work. The school expelled the three students after learning about the plot.
Cunningham was initially booked into the juvenile detention center and the two other students were released to their parents.
Sgt. Brockman said he understands the teens felt like the new student disrupted the social norm within their group. Brockman said Cunnignham was possibly having feelings of jealousy or envy towards the victim.
"Being the new kid on the block, he was getting some attention from some of the girls in the group that the person who came up with the plan didn't like," he said.
Through their investigation, detectives learned the teens started plotting the murder the week of Nov. 8. They attempted the attack on Nov. 15, but the Sheriff’s Office wasn’t notified from the school until the morning of Nov. 21.
Brockman said they're not sure yet why it took so long.
"We're not sure yet, I know the school was conducting an investigation to determine whether the students should be in school or expelled,” he said. “I think they were trying to have that information prior to notifying us."
However, he said the delay in notifying the sheriff's office is slightly concerning.
"It's better to involve us too soon than too late,” He said. "So anybody that has any kind of suspicion about any possible crime don't hesitate to call us. It's not a waste of our time it is what we are tasked to do."
Cunningham will appear in Benton County Superior Court on Wednesday. Brockman says the two other students will be summoned to court too.