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New Year’s Good Deed Ends In Tragedy

January 3, 1995

PURDY, Wash. (AP) _ When Christopher West and two buddies stopped to help a man after a car wreck, it didn’t seem like a dangerous chore to take him home and help him get into his house.

But the man’s scared 13-year-old son was waiting inside with a loaded rifle. West, 18, was shot dead for his trouble.

``It’s a tragic thing. It breaks my heart,″ said Marge Marcum, a convenience store clerk in nearby Key Center whose son knew West.

``My son used to play with him _ played pool, go out to McDonald’s. It could have been my son along then with him.″

It was New Year’s Eve, and West and two friends tried to help James Daus get into the locked home after giving him a lift. Daus couldn’t find his keys when they arrived, said Terry Wilson, a Pierce County sheriff’s detective.

The son, who was not identified, had grown worried waiting for Daus to return home from a tavern. The boy saw a white pickup pull up to the run-down, isolated home in the woods 10 miles south of Purdy, about 30 miles southwest of Seattle.

``He saw it wasn’t his dad’s car, so he called 911,″ Wilson said.

As three strangers got out and approached the house, the boy dropped the phone, went into his father’s bedroom and loaded a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle.

The emergency dispatcher called back and the boy said someone was breaking in.

Outside, Daus told the three men no one was home and gave them permission to break a window so he could get in, Wilson said. One of them picked up an ice chest from the deck and hurled it through a kitchen window, sending glass flying.

The boy, standing about 12 feet away in the doorway of his father’s bedroom, opened fire, striking West in the chest, face and shoulder.

One of the men, Dan Wehmeier, said he was clearing glass shards from the window when bullets whizzed past.

``They went clear past me. My friend Chris, he was standing maybe four feet off to my left,″ Wehmeier said.

``Mark (Stredicke) and I jumped off the deck and were trying to hide,″ he said. ``Chris was laying right above the steps, just sitting there. He was really hurt real bad.″

At the house Monday, the broken window was boarded up. Glass shards and blood stains remained on the deck and the blue-and-white ice chest sat beneath the window. A boy who appeared to be about 13 answered the door, said he wouldn’t talk to a reporter and closed the door.

Daus denied giving the men permission to break in.

``I have other ways to get into the house without breaking the window,″ he said by phone.

He couldn’t walk up to the house, he said, because he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the traffic accident and was in too much pain. His car hit a tree after he lost control on an icy road, Daus said.

Wilson said the three friends offered to call for medical help, but Daus asked that they take him home instead.

Daus said his son was having a hard time dealing with the shooting. ``He just wishes it would all go away,″ he said.

The boy’s 16-year-old sister, Dawn Daus, earlier described her brother as ``totally crushed.″

``He thinks he’s to blame. He just sits there and he cries. It’s just something that should not have happened,″ she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Wilson said he wouldn’t file charges against the boy but wanted to question the father about why he told the three men no one was home.

``What he (the boy) did was what any prudent person would do under the circumstances,″ Wilson said.