Original article no longer available
By GREG TUTTLE
Of The Gazette Staff
Ann Tracy, Ph.D., Executive Director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, through phone calls, confirmed that this 14 year old boy was taking Zoloft at the time of the murders.
COLUMBUS – A 15-year-old Rapelje boy pleaded guilty Thursday in Stillwater County District Court to two counts of mitigated deliberate homicide for the shooting deaths last summer of two members of his family.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys said they agreed that Jake Anders suffered from a mental disorder or extreme emotional distress when he shot his mother, Jennifer Hossfeld, and younger brother, Levi Anders, in the head while they slept.
Anders, who was 14 at the time of the shootings, was charged as an adult with two counts of deliberate homicide. His trial was scheduled to begin May 18.
During the hearing Thursday, Anders said he understood the plea agreement with prosecutors that could result in a 20-year sentence to a state mental health facility. In exchange for his guilty pleas, prosecutors reduced the charges to mitigated deliberate homicide.
Anders remained in custody at a youth detention center in Billings on $1 million bond. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 4.
According to the plea agreement, Stillwater County Attorney John Petak will recommend that Anders receive a 30-year sentence to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services on each count. Petak will recommend that 20 years of each sentence be suspended, with the sentences to run consecutively
Mitigated deliberate homicide carries a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.
Anders’ defense attorneys can ask Judge Blair Jones for a more lenient sentence, according to the plea agreement.
Petak said after the hearing that the recommended sentence is supported by two independent psychiatric evaluations of the boy. At a previous hearing, a psychiatrist testified that Anders suffered a “major depressive disorder” in the months before the July 28 shooting at a ranch house south of Rapelje.
A few months before the shooting, Hossfeld took her oldest son to a clinic in Absarokee for counseling, psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Rich said at a hearing in November. The boy was prescribed anti-depressant medication and spoke with a counselor several times. The counselor advised that the boy needed further counseling, which he didn’t receive, Rich said.
Hossfeld wrote in a medical form that her son overreacted to normal daily stresses and needed help developing “coping mechanisms for life,” Rich said. The boy’s treatment stopped three months before the shooting, and Rich said there were signs at school that Anders’ mental health was deteriorating. Normally a good student, the boy’s grades were falling, and in one incident recorded by a counselor, Anders beat his head against a wall for two hours after his school basketball team lost a game, Rich said.
Court records also indicate that on the night before the shooting, Anders was angry with his mother and stepfather because they denied his request to live with his father in Billings.
If Jones follows the plea agreement and sentences Anders to state custody for treatment, the boy could be placed in any number of state facilities, said Assistant Attorney General John Conner, who assisted Petak with the prosecution. Adults who are committed to state custody for mental health treatment are usually sent to the State Hospital in Warm Springs, but Conner said it is possible that Anders could receive treatment elsewhere.
If Anders’ condition improves and he does well in custody, Conner said, it is possible he could be transferred to a prerelease center to serve his sentence. It is also possible, Conner said, that Anders could serve part of his sentence at the Montana State Prison after he turns 18.
According to court records, the shooting was reported by Anders when he called 911 at about 7 a.m. and told a dispatcher that he had just shot his 10-year-old brother. The dispatcher asked the boy if his mother or father was present.
“No, I killed her, too. She’s dead,” Anders is reported to have said.
In court records and in previous testimony, Sheriff Cliff Brophy said that when he arrived at the home he found Anders sitting in the yard sobbing.
“I can’t believe I did this,” Brophy said the boy repeated over and over. “I wish I were dead also.”
Brophy said he found Hossfeld, 36, and the 10-year-old boy in their beds with fatal gunshot wounds to the head.