The law will treat Andrew Boyd and Jeremy Bennett as adults, but they struck Dave Howse as something else altogether Friday.
“It’s disheartening how young they were and how cold they could be,” said Howse, whose brother Lawrence allegedly died at Boyd’s and Bennett’s hands last month. “They were the age of my kids and my brother’s kids.”
Boyd and Bennett are charged with first-degree murder in a case remarkable for its utter brutality and randomness.
Tacoma police believe the pair sneaked into the secured garage under Lawrence Howse’s condominium complex Aug. 31, robbed him and then shot him twice in the torso. Howse died of his wounds.
His alleged assailants remained at large until Thursday, when police detectives used evidence from another robbery to tab the teens as suspects, court records show.
“It was an awful lot of work for law enforcement to track this down day after day … to get connections between what happened at Sky Terrace and a couple of other crimes,” Pierce County deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen said Friday.
Boyd, at 18, is an adult in the eyes of the law. Bennett is 17, normally considered a juvenile, but will be prosecuted as an adult as prescribed by state law because of the crime he’s accused of, Sorensen said.
Pleas of not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree robbery were entered on the defendants’ behalf Friday in Superior Court. Bennett also is charged with unlawfully possessing a gun.
Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered Boyd jailed in lieu of $3 million bail and Bennett in lieu of $2 million.
Howse’s death rattled those who live in and around the upscale Sky Terrace condominium building. The complex at 235 Broadway boasts a rooftop swimming pool and grand views of Commencement Bay and Mount Rainier.
Police said Howse returned home the night of Aug. 31 and pulled his BMW into the parking garage. Boyd and Bennett allegedly slipped beneath the closing door and robbed Howse as he walked toward the elevator.
A witness standing on her balcony told police she heard two men on the street below, saw the BMW pull into the garage and heard a voice say, “ ‘Let’s go get him,’ ” according to charging papers.
Moments later, gunshots rang out.
Howse died at the scene.
His car keys, wallet, cellphone and watch were missing when police arrived.
Detectives reviewed surveillance footage from the garage and a nearby store and spotted two men entering the garage just after the BMW. Four minutes later, the footage shows two men running from the garage.
Police at the time called the homicide a whodunit and pleaded with the public for tips.
A break in the case came Sept. 3 when two men robbed a Walgreens store on Sixth Avenue. While investigating that case, detectives turned up evidence connecting Boyd and Bennett to Howse’s death, court records show.
One suspect in the Walgreens robbery resembled one of the men seen running from Howse’s condo, court records show. Prosecutors said Friday that the man was Boyd and that he appeared to have worn the same jacket in both holdups.
Boyd admitted to robbing the Walgreens and identified Jaron Bennett, Jeremy Bennett’s brother, as his partner in the crime, according to court records. Pleas of not guilty have been entered on both men’s behalf in that case.
Police later talked to a witness who said Boyd and Jeremy Bennett showed up breathless at an I Street apartment the night of Aug. 31, and that Bennett pulled a wallet and keys from his pocket and asked his friends if they wanted to drive a BMW, court records show.
He allegedly said he would return to the parking garage days later to steal the car.
On Thursday, police served multiple warrants and arrested Boyd, the Bennett brothers and two other people.
Boyd told detectives Bennett shot Howse while they were robbing him, court records said. Bennett told detectives Boyd was the one with the gun. He said Boyd ordered the victim to remove his pants and shot him when he refused.
A search of Jaron Bennett’s home uncovered a stolen .45-caliber handgun likely used in the Walgreens holdup. Sorensen said Friday that the gun is not considered the weapon in the Howse killing.
Also charged Friday were two people who allegedly aided Boyd and Jeremy Bennett after Howse’s slaying. Titeana Bankston, 20, and Jheri Flood, 24, pleaded not guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping the shooters hide and destroy evidence.
Bankston said Bennett gave her a watch and wallet after the shooting and asked her to hold them for three days before passing them on to someone else, according to charging papers. She denied knowing they belonged to Howse.
Flood told police he also temporarily held on to the victim’s watch and wallet before burning them in a barbecue grill, court records show.
Outside court Friday, Dave Howse said his brother enjoyed boating, fishing and crabbing.
“That’s why he lived where he did,” he said. “He could be on the water in 10 minutes.”
Howse added that he was glad Boyd and Jeremy Bennett were off the street and facing justice.
“I believe that this neighborhood, that they basically terrorized, for the last month anyway, may feel a little bit safer,” he said. “They’re where they need to be.”