SANDPOINT — Preliminary hearings are set for Wednesday for two juvenile runaways accused of brutally attacking a Hope woman who offered them a ride.
Marshall Owens Dittrich and Joseph John Martin, both 17, are charged in adult court with battery with intent to commit robbery. The two suspects are being held at the Bonner County Jail with bail set at $500,000 apiece.
Wednesday’s hearing is being conducted to determine if the state possesses enough evidence to justify trying them in 1st District Court on the felony offense.
Dittrich, of Danville, Calif., and Martin, of Denver, were reported as runaways from Explorations, a therapeutic boarding school in Trout Creek, Mont.
The alleged attack on 66-year-old Vera Gadman occurred on Sunday. Gadman encountered the duo while they were hitchhiking in the Clark Fork area. She offered to help them find a campsite on the Hope Peninsula, where she was attacked along a remote cul-de-sac.
Both suspects agreed to speak with a sheriff’s detective after being advised of their Miranda rights, court documents indicate. They were apprehended without incident on Monday, following an intense manhunt.
Dittrich portrayed himself as a not-entirely-willing participant in the assault and Martin as the primary aggressor, Det. Phil Stella testified at a probable cause hearing held Monday to secure charges against the teens.
“Mister Martin was far less candid,” Stella testified during the hearing.
Stella told the court that the two suspects fled the school and concocted a plan to secure a vehicle and kidnap or perhaps even kill whoever stopped to give them a ride.
They found a bottle near Noxon, Mont., and at another point a length of cord or rope, according to Stella’s testimony.
Dittrich allegedly told the detective that Martin, seated in the rear of Gadman’s Subaru Forester, reached around her seat and began to choke her with his arm while demanding that Dittrich join the assault.
Dittrich, the front passenger seat, said he grabbed the car keys and saw Martin had wrapped the cord around her neck. Dittrich described “Martin as having his feet on the seat trying to get extra leverage on this cord,” Stella said.
Martin allegedly struck Gadman with a bottle until it shattered.
“She continued to fight; she made her way out of the car,” Stella said.
The alleged attack concluded with both suspects pelting Gadman with rocks as she fled the scene. Stella said the teens broke off the attack out of fear.
“Both were adamant that they were scared. They were just scared and ran,” Stella told the court.
Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall has drawn criticism for opting not to pursue a charges of attempted murder, an offense which has a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. Marshall said on Thursday that the current charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years.