Nearly two weeks after a teenager and her mother were brutally stabbed in their Benton City home, their family still is reeling from the...
BENTON CITY, Benton County — Nearly two weeks after a teenager and her mother were brutally stabbed in their Benton City home, their family still is reeling from the slayings and looking for answers.
The son of Ellen “Lori” Schalchlin wants the community to be able to attend a memorial for his mother and sister, Elizabeth, but plans are on hold while defense attorneys for the two suspects decide whether to bring in their own autopsy experts. Until then, the Benton County coroner can’t release Lori’s and Elizabeth’s bodies to the family, said Steven.
“You can’t wait that long. It’s not fair to them,” he said.
Steven, who has a different last name and asked that it not be used, has suddenly found himself saddled with a lot of responsibility at age 22.
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He has been making funeral arrangements, sifting through his mother’s and sister’s belongings, looking for homes for their pets and taking calls from friends — all while trying to cope emotionally.
To “fully move on with myself,” he said he needs to see his mother and sister one last time and to know exactly what happened Dec. 19 on Ruppert Road. And that would require his 15-year-old brother to open up to him.
The brother and his friend, Joshua Tucker, 16, were arrested in the deaths of Lori, 41, and Elizabeth, 13.
Tucker will be tried as an adult in Benton County Superior Court on two counts of first-degree murder. His trial begins Feb. 11.
The 15-year-old brother — charged in juvenile court and accused of trying to conceal his sister’s death from his mother, then trying to help Tucker escape — has a hearing later this week to decide whether his case should move to adult court.
Prosecutors say that Tucker had told the 15-year-old he was going to kill his family but that his threats weren’t taken seriously. Then, while the teens were hanging out at the Schalchlin home, Tucker allegedly grabbed a kitchen knife and slashed Elizabeth’s throat as she talked on the phone.
Tucker and the 15-year-old tried to hide her body behind a partition and were cleaning up the blood when Lori came out of her bedroom and asked for her daughter, court documents said. Tucker grabbed her and stabbed her several times, the documents said.
She died on the way to the hospital.
Tucker and the 15-year-old were arrested as they tried to drive away.
Steven said that about an hour later, a friend notified him that police were at his family’s home. When he couldn’t reach his mother on her cellphone or home phone, he called his friend back and asked her to hand the phone to a sheriff’s deputy at the scene.
He was told to go to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, but, once there, hospital staff had no record of Ellen Schalchlin. Then a nurse walked over to him with Coroner Rick Corson’s business card and said Steven should call Corson.
That’s how he learned his mother and sister were dead and his brother was in custody.
Steven said he hasn’t been sleeping much since the slayings and finds it hard to visit his brother in the juvenile-detention center “with what little I know of what he did.”
“I know I can’t forgive him for dragging our sister’s body … ,” Steven said. “Your sister is the one you’re supposed to protect — you don’t let anybody bring harm to your sister. Your mom is the one that brought you into the world.
“If you couldn’t save one, you could have saved the other.”
Elizabeth, a Kiona-Benton City Middle School student, was passionate about twirling the baton.
“She was always laughing and smiling,” Steven said. “She always found the upside of anything.”
Lori, who moved from Texas to the Tri-Cities in early 2000, delivered newspapers for the Tri-City Herald and also raised pygmy goats and used to breed birds.
“My mom was a very caring person who took in animals. There are a lot of animals in the Tri-Cities that are thankful for that,” Steven said. “If it was alive — if it had fur, scales, anything — she took it in, even humans.”
He has been trying to find homes for all his mom’s pets. Just this weekend he placed the goats, but still has several cats, puppies and two cockatoos.
“It’s just been tough, but people have been helping,” said Steven, who is married with a baby on the way. “It’s just been difficult.”
To raise money for funeral costs, a fund has been started in the names of Lori and Elizabeth at Sterling Savings Bank. Donations can be made at any branch.