Man sentenced in shooting death of Eastlake Graduate Claire Thompson
September 19, 2012
By Caleb Heeringa
New: Sept. 19, 1 p.m.
A 22-year-old Redmond man will spend most of the next two years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Claire Thompson, a 2010 Eastlake High School graduate.
Cornelius De Jong IV was sentenced to 27 months in prison Sept. 17 as part of a plea deal in connection with Thompson’s death, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office. He will be given credit for the five months of jail time already served.
Thompson, 20, died in February after being hit by an errant bullet from De Jong’s handgun at a Redmond house party. According to charging documents, De Jong was in another room and had fired the weapon at the wall to prove it was unloaded to a friend who was concerned about the weapon being handled while the group was drinking alcohol. A live round in the gun traveled through the wall and struck Thompson.
As part of the plea deal, De Jong will be prohibited from consuming alcohol or drugs for 18 months after being released. He will also be required to speak to students at Redmond High School about his experience. As a felon, he will also lose his right to own a firearm.
Thompson, who had worked at Ace Hardware in Sammamish and PCC in Issaquah, was living in Sammamish and going to school at Seattle Central Community College. Her family said she had plans to move to Hawaii and study nursing.
Thompson’s mother, Diane Benveniste, said in an interview that prosecutors worked closely with the family to determine an appropriate sentence. She said she was satisfied with the outcome, though it doesn’t make up for the loss of a young life.
“It was an accident – I know that,” Benveniste said. “Nothing is ever going to be enough to make up for it.”
Benveniste said she hopes that her daughter’s death might remind the community to be careful with firearms, especially when alcohol is involved. She continues to question why De Jong, who had previous convictions for minor in possession of alcohol and driving under the influence, could be issued a concealed weapons permit for his gun.
“Alcohol and guns don’t mix – that’s what people need to hear,” she said. “It’s the community that needs to learn from this.”
Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org.