Ybarra found guilty

Assailant in shooting trial determined not insane

Written by: Justina Brown and Monica Veles.

UPDATE: On Wednesday Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. the jury determined that Aaron Ybarra was not legally insane at the time of the June 5, 2014 shooting, finding him guilty of first-degree murder of Paul Lee; three counts of attempted first-degree murder of Sarah Williams, Thomas Fowler and Anna Sofia Cuturilo-Hackney; and second-degree assault of Tristan Cooper-Roth.

The jury also decided that Ybarra was in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting and that his actions had a foreseeable impact on those other than the victims, as noted in the jury’s special forms.

At the time the verdict was announced both Fowler and Cuturilo-Hackney were present in the courtroom along with family members of those affected.

A number of Ybarra’s family members were present as well. During the verdict announcement, Ybarra appeared to have no reaction.

Just following the release of the verdict, the Office of University President Dan Martin sent out an all-campus email to announce the verdict and note resources on campus for those in need.

Sentencing is set to take place on Jan. 27 at 1 p.m.

Aaron Ybarra walks to the courtroom on Monday, Nov. 14 to hear closing arguments regarding his case.

Justina Brown | The Falcon
Aaron Ybarra walks to the courtroom on Monday, Nov. 14 to hear closing arguments regarding his case.


The following is The Falcon’s original story on closing arguments in the Ybarra trial:

The prosecution and defense presented their cases for whether or not Aaron Ybarra was legally insane at the time of the June 5, 2014, shooting during closing arguments for the SPU shooting trial on Monday.

The jurors continued to deliberate over the evidence, but by the end of the day, Tuesday, no verdict had been reached. Deliberations were expected to continue Wednesday.

Ybarra is charged with first-degree murder of Paul Lee; three separate counts of attempted first-degree murder of Sarah Williams, Thomas Fowler and Anna Sofia Cuturilo-Hackney; and second-degree assault of Tristan Cooper-Roth.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If the jury does find Ybarra insane, they will need to determine if he poses a threat to public safety and if he should be sent to a state mental hospital. If they find him guilty, he will be sentenced to prison.

After the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers denied a defense motion to acquit Ybarra on the grounds of being legally insane. He ruled that while Ybarra suffers from schizoaffective disorder, he was able to perceive right from wrong and, therefore, was not insane on the day of the shooting.

The defense and prosecutor did not argue over whether Ybarra is mentally ill.

As Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Richardson explained to the jury, mentally ill is not the same as legally insane.

In arguing that Ybarra understood that his actions were wrong, Richardson explained that Ybarra wants forgiveness for his actions, which is human nature for people who are not legally insane, and that “Paul Lee was just the first of what he hoped would be many that day.”

Richardson noted that the real issue at stake is if Ybarra knew that what he was doing was wrong. She presented that the shooting is not a crime related to God, Lucifer and Satan’s plan, as Ybarra had said months after the shooting, but that the case is about Ybarra’s rage and fury.

Richardson also urged jurors to consider the fact that Ybarra intended to kill each of the students listed in the charges.

A primary element of first-degree murder is that it is premeditated, a factor that Richardson explained is evident in this case.

Ybarra wrote his plan in a journal, and three days prior to the shooting he wrote an entry detailing his selection of SPU and his visit to the campus, writing “I know I will kill quite a few women.” He intentionally chose Seattle Pacific over Seattle University, dismissing Washington State University, which he believed was too far away, and the University of Washington, because he’s a Husky fan.

Brandes argued that while Ybarra wrote out a plan in his journal describing a mass shooting with the intent of killing many, the shooting was not premeditated. Brandes noted that he did not end up following the exact plan he wrote down, which entailed indiscriminate shooting, since he ended up attempting to take hostages.

According to both Richardson and Brandes, Ybarra later explained that when he shot Paul Lee and Sarah Williams he intended for them to be warning shots. But Richardson questioned what Ybarra felt the need to warn people about.

Richardson noted that the real issue is if Ybarra knew that what he was doing was wrong. She cited Ybarra’s comments on the stand during week four of the trial, saying that he knew his actions were wrong.

Also on the stand, Ybarra’s story included that the shooting was a command from God, Satan and Lucifer, however, Richardson posited that if a command is from Satan it would be known as inherently wrong.

Ybarra also explained that he heard the voice of Eric Harris, a shooter in the Columbine High School massacre, and was unable to control his thoughts. According to Brandes, Ybarra told his psychiatrist Heidi Iwanski that he was hearing voices, but he later told her they stopped upon realizing that this confession would likely lead to him being committed into a mental hospital.

Brandes argued that although it wasn’t until later that Ybarra mentioned the plan involving God, Satan and Lucifer, it’s possible for delusions to develop over time to make sense of things. Brandes later noted that Ybarra suffers from limited intellectual function.

Ybarra isn’t coming up with new excuses as to why he committed the shooting, Brandes said. Rather, he is just finding the words to describe the situations and his actions.

While Ybarra saw three therapists prior to turning 26 and losing his insurance, Brandes explained that he didn’t try to hide that he had hate and dark feelings inside him.

“He’s not mad just to be mad, he’s mad like that because he’s mentally ill,” Brandes said.

According to Brandes, it’s Ybarra’s belief that he was doing what God wanted him to do regardless of what others believe.

Ybarra originally planned on killing himself after the mass shooting as part of carrying out God’s plan. According to Brandes, Ybarra believed that if he told anyone after the shooting that he was suicidal, he would not have been able to kill himself and therefore complete the plan.

This story will be updated online once a verdict is reached.

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