Prison ordered in stabbing case

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Harp

SANDPOINT — A Washington state man was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for a stabbing that nearly killed a man on Easter Sunday in Laclede.

Shawn Montgomery Harp will have to serve at least seven years of the sentence before he can be considered for parole, according to the terms of the sentence imposed by 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan.

Harp, a 34-year-old Spokane Valley resident, was charged with attempted murder in connection with the Easter Sunday stabbing in Laclede. Harp was accused of stabbing a professional acquaintance in the chest and back in an unprovoked attack.

“I went from literally sitting down on a deck eating pie and ice cream to a split second later having a knife plunged through my chests into my lung, narrowly missing my heart, and then was quickly stabbed a second time on the back, nearly hitting my spinal cord,” the alleged victim said during Harp’s sentencing hearing.

The victim came perilously close to being killed and said the attack has had a profound impact on how he views people and the world. The attack also came at an exciting, optimistic time in his life in which he was poised to be married and enter into the realm of business ownership.

The knife attack took him to a “hard and dark place” and left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The victim was in the process of purchasing a Ponderay automotive drive train company and the stabbing occurred at the residence of the business owner who was selling the company. Harp, it turns out, was a relative of the business’s owner.

In a plea agreement with the state, Harp pleaded guilty to an amended charge of aggravated battery, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The victim called for the maximum sentence.

“For Shawn to attack someone who he had never even had a cross word with proves how dangerous he is and what he is capable of,” he said.

The knifing dealt a mortal blow to the sale of the business and the victim’s fiance said she went from planning for nuptials timed to coincide with Monday’s eclipse to appearing in court to deliver a victim impact statement.

“Here we are in front of a judge instead of a minister,” she said.

Harp’s brother, Michael Dunsmore, testified that his younger brother was a good person who found himself in the throes of drug addiction.

“We believe at the time he was in a drug-induced psychosis,” said John Pavla, a counselor at drug rehabilitation facility that agreed to take Harp in if he was released onto probation.

Harp, who stifled sobs during the hearing, offered genuine apologies to the man and his friends and family.

“It’s important to tell you that none of this is your fault and you had nothing to do with this. I take responsibility for all of the damage,” Harp said.

Bonner County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank recommended a three- two seven-year term, while Chief Public Defender Janet Whitney called for retained jurisdiction, which could have seen Harp released after spending about a year in prison.

But Buchanan said a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and while she appreciated Harp’s willingness to kick drugs, she noted that he had ample opportunities to do so before the knife attack.

“Unfortunately, it’s a little too late,” said Buchanan.

Moreover, Harp met none of the criteria judge’s can cite in deciding not to send a defendant to prison, which includes a finding that no harm was intended during the commission of the crime. Harp’s placement in a faith-based recovery program was also inappropriate given the circumstances, Buchanan added.

“It’s not an appropriate program when you have a violent offense like this,” she said.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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