N. Idaho man sentenced in fatal hammer attack

N. Idaho man sentenced in fatal hammer attack

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho man was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for first-degree murder in the death of a 43-year-old neighbor following a violent hammer attack on her and members of her family nearly two years ago.

Larry Cragun of Bayview will serve at least 30 years before he's eligible for parole.

First District Court Judge Ben Simpson also sentenced Cragun to serve a minimum of 15 years in prison each for two counts of aggravated battery and one count of attempted first-degree murder, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported.

The sentences will run concurrently.

Cragun pleaded guilty in March to killing Patricia Heath during the attack and severely wounding her mother-in-law, Lorraine Wallis, 59, who testified that she has had four surgeries after taking two hammer blows to the head. Wallis's son, Michael Heath, and grandson Jedidiah Heath suffered minor injuries.

The surviving family members testified during a two-day sentencing hearing that started Monday.

"I've been working hard not to remember that day," Jedidiah Heath said.

The family was watching television when police say Cragun, a neighbor, burst into the home holding a hammer and a knife, and starting to attack them. Cragun then went into town and told some people what he had done before calling 911.

Doctors who examined Cragun testified that he has had paranoid schizophrenia since at least 2001 and suffers from delusions and hallucinations. Cragun was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and lost a testicle, which aggravated his paranoid delusions, said clinical psychologist Craig Beaver.

Cragun distributed fliers titled "Resist Socialism" around Bayview before the attacks, investigators said.

His mother, Valerie Benda of Sandpoint, testified Monday that around that time, her son also stripped the box-spring of his bed down to the metal frame, looking for a recording device he believed the government had hidden there. He also believed a demon had paid him a visit at his Bayview trailer home overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, and that hundreds of paid government agents were following him, she said.

"He was believing things that were not real," Benda said.

A doctor who evaluated Cragun before the attacks also found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, she said. Benda testified that she was concerned about her son's behavior and had to trick him into submitting to a mental evaluation.

However, he didn't have the money for the medication, said Benda, who apologized to Cragun's victims.

"I'm very sorry to the Heath family ... for the pain my son caused you," she said.


Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press