Teen pleads not guilty to killing man for his cellphone

Teen pleads not guilty to killing man for his cellphone »Play Video
Byron White appears in court on Monday, March 17.
KENT, Wash. - The 17-year-old Ballard High School senior accused of murdering a Greenwood man for his cellphone pleaded not guilty in court Monday as the families of the victim and the accused watched from just a few feet away.

Emotions ran high inside the Regional Justice Center in Kent as the accused killer, Byron White, 17, faced the judge.

White is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, attempted robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

According to police and court documents, White is accused of shooting David Peterson on Feb. 23 in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.

Charging papers say White tried to steal Peterson's cellphone in a pet-store parking lot while Peterson was out for a walk around his Greenwood neighborhood. When Peterson refused to give up his phone, White walked away.

But White returned when he heard Peterson on the phone with 911 reporting the attempted robbery. According to the charging documents, White shot Peterson once in the chest while Peterson was still talking to the 911 operator, grabbed Peterson's phone and ran off.

Police arrived to find Peterson's body on the pavement.

According to prosecutors, White later told a friend he was disappointed Peterson's phone was not a nicer model.

Prosecutors say his mother led investigators to White at Sea-Tac Airport, where he was arrested March 1 before he could board a flight to Atlanta.

If convicted he could face 27 to 35 years in prison.

Peterson's wife, Kimberly, attended Monday's court hearing and said a lifetime in prison would not be enough of a sentence

"I know a lot of his schoolmates mention that he was a nice guy, but Ted Bundy was a nice guy, too, to his roommates, to his buddies, too, so someone like that personality is not going to change," she said.

"There's not going to be any justice in a case like this," said another Peterson family member.

Members of the victim's and accused's families both say they will be back in court for each appearance in the case.