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Carneh faces life term if guilty

Leemah Carneh could be facing life in prison without parole, but the King County prosecuting attorney won’t ask for the death penalty in his case.

Louis Frantz, Carneh’s defense attorney, said the defense team feels the prosecution made the right decision.

“We’re very pleased for our client and for his family,” Frantz said. “We’re relieved.”

Carneh, then 19, was arrested in March 2001 on suspicion of murdering four people in a Des Moines home. He has been charged in King County Superior Court with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder.

Carneh, now 20, denies involvement in the murders and maintains he was framed, said Frantz.

A hearing was scheduled for yesterday in King County Superior Court to set a trial date. If Carneh is eventually found guilty, he will be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of release.

Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng opted out of pursuing the death penalty because of Carneh’s mental history. A judge ordered Carneh into treatment at Western State Hospital last year after ruling him incompetent to stand trial.

Carneh has since been ruled competent, but Maleng felt the accused killer’s mental history was enough reason not to seek the death penalty.

“We recognize the defendant has been at Western State for most of the past year,” said Maleng spokesman Dan Donohoe. “There’s been a lot of focus on his competence and mental state.”

Even though he is considered competent to stand trial now, Donohoe said questions remain as to Carneh’s mental state at the time the four people were murdered.

Carneh is being held in the King County Jail without bail.

Police arrested Carneh in March 2001 after they found the bodies of Richard and Leola Larson, 63 and 64, their grandson Taelor Marks, 17, and his girlfriend Josie Peterson, 17, in the Larsons’ Des Moines home.

Police detectives found some of the victims’ belongings in Carneh’s possession when they arrested him at his parents’ home in Pierce County.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com.

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