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Kent man pleads not guilty to manslaughter charge in shooting death of Enumclaw girl

James T. Radtke, of Kent, pleads not guilty Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center, to the charge of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting death last year of a 16-year-old Enumclaw girl. - CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter
James T. Radtke, of Kent, pleads not guilty Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center, to the charge of first-degree manslaughter in connection with the shooting death last year of a 16-year-old Enumclaw girl.
— image credit: CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter

A 25-year-old Kent man pleaded not guilty Thursday to first-degree manslaughter in connection with the Dec. 11 shooting death in Enumclaw of Kelsey Carter, his 16-year-old girlfriend.

James T. Radtke entered his plea at his arraignment in King County Superior Court at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. He posted $100,000 bail July 21 and is out of custody. He is scheduled to return to court Sept. 12 for a pre-trial hearing.

King County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested Radtke July 19 for investigation of manslaughter.

Prosecutors allege that Radtke did recklessly cause the death of Carter. She was shot once in the chest as she sat on the lap of Radtke in the basement of a Enumclaw home that belonged to Radtke's friend, according to charging papers.

The shooting occurred shortly after 8 p.m. Dec. 11. Carter was at a house in the 33900 block of Southeast Green River Headworks Road. Radtke and another man at the residence took Carter in a truck to Enumclaw Regional Hospital but the girl was dead on arrival at about 8:20 p.m.

Radtke had been reported as a runaway to Enumclaw Police on Oct. 19.

On the night of the shooting, the girl’s mother called 911 to report her daughter was with Radtke. She said she saw her daughter on a deck of the house smoking, according to charging documents.

But before deputies arrived, two vehicles left the residence, and the mother didn’t know if her daughter was in one of the vehicles or not.

Deputies interviewed Radtke and two other men at the house, but they said she wasn’t there. They would not give deputies permission to enter the residence to look for her.

The shooting occurred at the house about 2½ hours later.

According to probable cause documents, Carter was at the house with Radtke even though he told deputies she was not there.

After deputies left, Radtke and Carter made plans to walk from the house to Cumberland to call for a ride. Radtke knew the girl's mother had been outside the house and decided they should leave.

Radtke armed himself with a .41-caliber single-action Ruger revolver which was fully loaded. He told detectives he needed the gun for the walk because he was in unfamiliar territory and might run into unfriendly people or wildlife.

While waiting for darkness to leave, Carter sat on Radtke's lap on the floor in the home's basement. Radtke had the revolver in a belt holster on his hip. He admitted he tried to adjust the revolver position because he was uncomfortable and the gun fired once, striking Carter in the chest. She died about 45 minutes later.

Investigators determined that in order for the gun to have been fired under such circumstances, the hammer would have to be cocked and the trigger depressed fully. Investigators said the gun could not have discharged unless physically manipulated by Radtke.

The Kent man told detectives that he had not cocked the revolver while seated with Carter and that the gun went off while still in the holster. Detectives set up a re-enactment of the incident with Radtke in December in a room at the Regional Justice Center. Detectives determined it was highly unlikely the gun could be discharged while in the holster.

Radtke told detectives that he had met Carter about five months before her death when she babysat for him. He said the relationship advanced into a dating and sexual relationship.

After Radtke was evicted from his Enumclaw home in early December, he said he and Carter had been living at his parents home in Kent as well as homes of friends in Enumclaw.

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