Former Student Convicted of Murder in Washington School Shooting

A young man who shot a high school student to death within 20 feet of the principal and in view of other students was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder.

Douglas S. Chanthabouly, 20, had been charged with first-degree murder and did not react as a Pierce County Superior Court jury convicted him of the lesser offense, The News Tribune newspaper reported. His lawyers claimed he was legally insane at the time.

Chanthabouly faces a standard range of about 15 to 30 years when he is sentenced May 1 for shooting 17-year-old Samnang Kok to death in a hallway at Foss High School before the start of classes on Jan. 3, 2007.

Jurors left without commenting on their deliberations, and Deputy Proecutor Ed Murphy said he did not know the split within the panel on the first-degree murder charge. First-degree murder requires a finding of premeditation.

"I think it was a difficult issue for the jury," Murphy said.

The verdict followed a two-week trial and four days of deliberations.

Witnesses, including Malcolm Clark and Josh Wilber, 15-year-old sophomores at the time, testified that Chanthabouly pointed a handgun at Kok and fired a shot into his face and two more rounds into his body from no more than a foot away.

Principal Don Herbert said he was about 20 feet away when the shots were fired.

"We're disappointed and expect that we'll be filing an appeal," court-appointed defense lawyer John A. McNeish told The Associated Press by telephone. He declined to specify any grounds for an appeal.

Defense lawyers noted that Chanthabouly was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Had he been acquitted by reason of insanity, he would have been committed indefinitely to Western State Hospital, the state's principal mental institution.

Chanthabouly was examined extensively at Western State. The jury heard conflicting testimony about his mental state at the time of the shootings.

Mental health experts generally agreed that he probably was having delusions the day of the shooting and thought Kok was a member of a street gang he believed was out to hurt him and his brother.

But Julie Gallagher, a state psychologist, testified that she nevertheless believed Chanthabouly could tell right from wrong, and thus did not meet the definition of legal insanity.

Chanthabouly was arrested about two hours after the shooting, when someone called police to report that he was wandering a neighborhood near the school.

Detectives never determined a motive, although prosecutors presented evidence that Chanthabouly may have harbored animosity toward someone named "Sam." They cited a class assignment in which Chanthabouly wrote about a "sludge face named Sam" who was "going to live in dirt forever."