Nancy Huntzinger sat with her family in a Humboldt County courtroom on Friday, and watched as Stephen Daniel Hash, wearing shackles and an orange jail jumpsuit, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of her teenage son 18 years ago.
Judge Bruce Watson declined the plea, and advised Hash to speak with an attorney to discuss the ramifications of such an admission. The court then entered a plea of not guilty on Hash's behalf.
That move was anticipated by prosecuting Assistant District Attorney Wes Keat, who said it is typical for a judge to direct a defendant to speak with counsel before issuing a plea in a manslaughter case.
”It's a reasonable step and it's what I expected,” Keat said. “That doesn't mean it's going to be the result.”
Hash will wait in the Humboldt County jail for his next court appearance, scheduled for Dec. 10.
District Attorney Paul Gallegos said after the 53-year-old Hash was arrested Wednesday, he has been completely cooperative with investigators and has “expressed a great deal of remorse” for the murder of 14-year-old Curtis Huntzinger, who disappeared in May 1990.
His “absolute” cooperation is what led the District Attorney's Office to charge Hash with voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon, rather than murder, Gallegos said....
...Wayne Cox, an investigator for the DA's Office, said as years went by he saw interest in Curtis Huntzinger's disappearance taper off. About two years ago, he decided to take on the case.
”This case could have been solved a long time ago -- it simply wasn't,” Gallegos said. “There were leads that were not followed up that we merely followed up with.”
Hash's admission has brought some amount of closure to the Huntzinger family, Gallegos said.
The family, including Nancy Huntzinger and Curtis Huntzinger's sister, Sarah, attended the Friday arraignment.
Nancy Huntzinger said it is still too early to comment on her feelings about Hash's confession, but she looks forward to the outcome.
”I'm on pins and needles right now,” she said. “It's gone on too long.”...
☛ TS Hash pleads guilty to manslaughter
☛ sfgate Man arrested 18 years after teen disappeared
☛ Porchlight International for the Missing & Unidentified
☛ TS Never too late for resolution
☛ TS editorial Never too late for resolution
☛TS Hash receives 11 years in prison
◼ Curtis Huntzinger's mother wins wrongful death lawsuit