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Three Rigby teenagers were charged with first-degree murder and robbery on Monday for what authorities called the coldblooded killing of an Idaho Falls woman at her rural convenience store.
Christopher Thomas Shanahan, 15, also was charged with using a deadly weapon for allegedly firing the shot that killed Fidela Tomchak last Friday. Tomchak, 41, owned the Grant Merc with her husband.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Robin Dunn said Benjamin “B.J.” Jenkins, 15, and Thomas Paul Lundquist, 16, were charged with first-degree murder as adults under the Idaho felony murder rule, which states suspects involved in a felony that leads to a murder can be charged with the murder.
“Whether it was because of a dare, because they wanted to, there’s no reason for it we’ve been able to determine,” Jefferson County Sheriff Blair Olsen said. “It was totally senseless.”
The Rigby High School students were returned to separate eastern Idaho jails after appearing Monday before Jefferson County Magistrate Michael Kennedy. They requested a public defender and were ordered held without bond. A preliminary hearing before Kennedy is scheduled Nov. 27.
Shanahan was returned to the Jefferson County Jail, Lundquist to the Clark County Jail in Dubois and Jenkins to the Fremont County Jail in St. Anthony.
If they are convicted, all three could face the death penalty, but a prison sentence is more likely given their age.
“We will aggressively prosecute,” Dunn said. “I’m certain that the community will desire that these youth be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
He said two of the teens have made written confessions.
Youths have been involved in several Idaho murders in the past two years. James Robert “Bobby” Lee Moore of Boise was 14 when he gunned down a New Plymouth policeman in January 1994. The same month, a 12-year-old boy was accused of shooting his father to death near Rogerson.
A Latah County teenager was convicted of shooting his younger brother in their home later in 1994, and two Mountain Home teens face a murder trial next March for allegedly killing a Forest Service engineer last spring north of Weiser.
Tomchak apparently was stocking shelves at her store six miles west of Rigby last Friday when she was shot from behind, Olsen said. She died instantly of a single shot to the head.
The youths were arrested without incident about 5:30 p.m. Saturday by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who stopped them for speeding on Interstate 15 near Brigham City, in northern Utah. The car, which was owned by Shanahan though it had Twin Falls plates, reportedly was traveling 90 mph.
The three were returned to Rigby on Sunday, and Olsen said authorities recovered what they believe to be the murder weapon. Tomchak was killed with a small-caliber bullet, he said, and investigators found two .22-caliber rifles and two shotguns in the car during a search Monday.
Authorities said the teens took about $200 from the store, some cigarettes and 25 gallons of gasoline, some of which was stored in gas cans in the car.
They drove to Las Vegas, Nev., on Friday and intended to meet a friend there, but were unable to do so, Dunn said. They were headed back in the direction of Idaho when they were stopped in Utah.
Olsen said he knew the youths’ families.
“It’s hit home here. All the families involved are struggling,” the sheriff said. “Three young boys, in my opinion, have thrown their lives away because of some ridiculous stunt.”
Parents of the suspects declined comment Monday.