Mother of Victim Decries 18-Month Sentence for Teen Guilty of Stabbing in Chehalis

By Natalie Johnson /

Moments before a Chehalis 18-year-old was sentenced Tuesday morning to 18 months in prison for stabbing her son several times in the chest, Katie Creech told Superior Court Andrew Toynbee that she didn’t believe the plea agreement, based on an argument that the victim initiated the assault, reflected the severity of the crime.

“I had three different surgeons tell me Bryce is lucky to be here,” she said. “Self defense would have been using a fist, not a knife.”

Jose F. Chagolla Flores was charged Oct. 9 with first-degree assault for allegedly stabbing a 17-year-old male, Bryce Friedley, in the chest Oct. 5 in the parking lot of the Chehalis Walmart.

He was scheduled to go to trial this week, but pleaded guilty to second-degree assault with a deadly weapon on Nov. 30.

His sentencing hearing was held Tuesday morning in Lewis County Superior Court.

According to police and court documents, witnesses of the Oct. 5 stabbing reported the males were in a fight but left in separate vehicles before police arrived.

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Officers learned from dispatchers that Friedley was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with a stab wound to the chest.

“When I arrived at Providence hospital I watched as staff stabilized Bryce for a flight to Harborview Medical Center,” Creech said in court Tuesday.

Creech was driving to Harborview when medical staff called to tell her the teen was heading into surgery to repair his heart and a collapsed lung.

“The next time I saw my son, he was on life support,” she said.

Creech said doctors had to break Friedley’s sternum to repair the damage to his heart and left lung, and said his right lung collapsed during the surgery. He was in Harborview for 10 days, she said.

All of the wounds required significant care and attention after Friedley was released from the hospital, she said, and his sternum has not yet fully healed.

Investigators caught up with Chagolla-Flores at a friend’s house the day after the stabbing, when he told police he agreed to meet a person at the parking lot to sell marijuana. He said he arrived and met Friedley, who hit him in the face.

Chagolla-Flores told police he stabbed Friedley in retaliation for that punch.

His attorney, Chris Baum, told the court he believed his client acted in self defense, but said he believed a jury might believe he acted with excessive force by responding to an alleged punch with a knife.

Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead acknowledged the argument.

“This is a case of possible self defense,” he said. “There is evidence the victim was the primary aggressor.”

He noted Friedley was charged is in custody in the Lewis County Jail after being charged as an adult Nov. 17 with first-degree robbery.

According to court documents, Friedley was not cooperative with investigators immediately after the incident. Creech said he was afraid for his life and for his family’s lives.

She said her home was broken into while she was caring for her son in Seattle.

“Since Oct. 5, I have had to relocate my children and myself for our safety,” she said. “Bryce fears if he testifies he and his family will be killed.”

Days after Chagolla Flores was charged, on the night between Oct. 12 and 13, police received a report of an assault that the victim believed was in retaliation for his role in the Oct. 5 incident.

Stormie M. McKenzie, 19, of Winlock, Taylor S. Rodgers, 20, of Chehalis, Jesus Adrian Gomez Mendez, 19, of Centralia, and Victor Esteban Gonzalez, 18, of Centralia, have been charged with second-degree assault in the incident, which included a juvenile male being beaten with a baseball bat.

One suspect told investigators that the victim of the assault was believed to have driven Chagolla-Flores away from the scene of the stabbing.

Halstead asked for a sentence of nine months in prison in addition to 12 months due to the deadly-weapon enhancement on the assault charge, for a total of 21 months.

Baum asked Toynbee to impose three months, plus the 12-month enhancement.

Toynbee split the difference and imposed a total of 18 months.

“The injury to Mr. Friedley was so significant, but I can’t isolate that fact from the facts that led to this case,” he said.

Had Chagolla Flores been convicted of first-degree assault, he likely would have been sentenced to more than nine years in prison, Toynbee added.

Chagolla Flores did not make a statement at the hearing.