While the most serious charges against three men accused of murdering four members of the Careaga family in 2017 remain in place, Kitsap County prosecutors have dropped a series of secondary charges for the men after an attorney of one of the defendants asked for those charges to be dismissed, arguing that they were filed beyond the state’s statute of limitations.
A list of first-degree murder charges filed against Danie Jay Kelly Jr., 44, and brothers Robert James Watson III, 51, and Johnny James Watson, 50, in Kitsap County Superior Court remains, and the men still face a total of ten felony charges for their alleged involvement in the murders. All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. A consolidated trial for the three men is currently due to begin in September.
Prosecutors initially filed 16 felony charges against each of the men in 2022, including counts of aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole on conviction, as well as burglary at the first degree, first degree kidnapping, first degree assault and conspiracy to commit first degree murder charges.
Kelly’s attorney, Tom Weaver, argued in court papers in June that charges of burglary, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy exceeded the state’s three-year statute of limitations for certain crimes and sought to have them dismissed, and in response in a new indictment filing on July 6, prosecutors dropped those charges for all three men, while adding one count of attempted first-degree murder for each.
Kitsap County District Attorney Chad Enright said, “Our theory of the case remains the same, and the change in the charges does not change the sentencing range any of these defendants will face. The most serious charges are still pending. »
He added: “We have been so involved in this case from the start that we just didn’t realize how long it had been since it happened. While this case is still fresh in our minds, the reality is that it’s been a long time and the statute of limitations has expired on some of the lesser charges. But the serious charges remain, and it will have no impact on the time any of these defendants face.
The January 2017 murders left four members of the blended Careaga family dead: John Derek Careaga, 43, Christale Lynn Careaga, 37, Hunter Evan Schaap, 16, and Johnathon Felipe Higgins, 16. Christale and the two teenagers were shot, and their remains were found at the family’s burnt-out home near Lake Tahuya in rural Kitsap County. John was also shot, and his remains were found in his burnt-out truck at a Mason County tree farm. Investigators linked the murders to family-related drugs and money.
The murders sent shockwaves through the community, and it wasn’t until June 2022 that Kelly and the Watson brothers were arrested and charged. The three men were held in Kitsap County Jail without bail while their cases were pending.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: 3 men charged in Careaga murders have secondary charges dropped