POCATELLO — Surrounded by crying neighbors, Andrew Stoddart remembers one of them saying to his stepdad that he had to tell Andrew. In between sobs, his stepdad told him someone did something terrible to his sister.
Andrew Stoddart, the brother of the late Cassie Jo Stoddart, who was stabbed to death by two of her classmates at Pocatello High School, dropped the phone and crumbled to the ground. He knew it was bad, but he had no way of knowing how bad.
“I didn’t even know how to process it,” Andrew said. “I thought, ‘Is this really going on right now?’ I just broke down.”
The world came to Pocatello’s front door 10 years ago after Torey Adamcik and Brian Draper murdered Cassie in cold blood on Sept. 22, 2006. Other than close friends or family, Andrew hasn’t opened up since that fateful September day.
“When we were younger, we were raised by our grandparents quite a bit,” Andrew said. “Cassie was always the headstrong one out of all of our siblings. She was the one I always looked up to even though she wasn’t the oldest one.”
His oldest sister, Kristie, was seven years older, and only a year and a half separated Andrew and Cassie.
“Me and her were always into the same stuff and going to the same places,” he said. “We did everything together even though we would argue and stuff, just like any other sibling. I just miss having my sister right there, a grade above me. I felt like I was always a step behind her looking up to her. She really was a role model. She was really smart, doing good and had a lot going for her.”
Born in Pocatello, Andrew said Cassie had a love for drawing and music. She was your typical teenage girl.
“She was really artistic,” he said. “Our mom actually has some of her drawings hung up on the wall. She had all of her favorite artists hanging up in her room, too.”
When the stabbing happened, Andrew was staying the night at a friend’s house. He was 15 and didn’t have a license at the time.
“I was trying to get ahold of my mom but couldn’t,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what was going on. Eventually my friend’s parents gave me a ride home, but nobody was there when I got there. They were all up at the house where it happened.”
Though everyone was trying to comfort him, Andrew still didn’t know how to process everything.
“My uncle came and picked me up and took me to the house,” he said. “All the cops were outside. It was just really surreal.”
The killing was brutal. Cassie was stabbed 29 times while house-sitting for her aunt and uncle, Allison and Frank Contreras.
It was the Contreras’ 13-year-old daughter who found Cassie on the living room floor. Frank said experts believed Cassie was killed sometime Friday night. He and his family had not returned until Sunday evening.
“This would rate — if not the top — real close to the top of all the incidents we’ve had to deal with,” said Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen. “Senseless, premeditated killing for the thrill of killing — all of those things that scare you the most, this was one of them.”
It took five days of investigation before Adamcik and Draper were charged in the killings, but Andrew was unable to return to school for weeks.
“A friend brought me all my homework,” he said. “But when I did go back to school, it was overwhelming. Everybody was like ‘How are you doing?’ and I honestly I didn’t know how I was doing. … I was constantly pulled out of class, but I just wanted to be left alone.”
Andrew said Cassie’s loss didn’t impact any one of his family members more than the other.
“It affected us all in different ways,” he said. “We all had different things that bothered us. It took us years before we could even talk about it.”
He did say, though, that his mother took it really hard.
“I mean, it was her daughter, you know?” he said. “All of us were really torn up from it — we still are. It’s something we have to live with.”
Investigators, Pocatello High School and the entire community battled through emotions of shock and sadness. This kind of horrific crime was unheard of in such a small town.
“It was a horrible experience that occurred for students who knew each other and those who were friends with each other,” said Mary Vagner, School District 25’s superintendent at the time of the killing. “On the school community, it had a very sad and horrific impact.”
On August 21, 2007, both Adamcik and Draper were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, and 30 years to life for conspiracy to commit murder.
Their attorneys filed separate appeals at the Supreme Court in September 2010 and April 2011. Both were denied.
“I still don’t quite understand what led both of them to do this,” Nielsen said. “I know the mother doesn’t think her child did anything wrong, but I can guarantee you that they were both involved. This was planned. They had a list of others. This was evil — just pure evil.”
Andrew said there was some light, however — some abstract version of growth from losing his sister so early.
“It makes you appreciate things a lot more,” he said. “You never know how fragile life is. You never know how easy it is for someone to be gone the next day.”
When asked if he’d ever forgive Cassie’s killers, his answer was stern and immediate.
“No,” he said. After everything I’ve seen, after how long they dragged this out, no. I’ve sat through everything. I’ve sat through every hour of the trials. No. There’s not a doubt in my mind that they both did it. I’ve sat down and talked with my family about it and really what it does is reopen the wound.”
Andrew continued about watching Adamcik and Draper appeal their convictions: “Every other month we have to go back in and sit in the courtroom. It’s like a reoccurring nightmare.”
In March, Sixth District Magistrate Judge Mitchell W. Brown ended that nightmare by denying a motion for postconviction relief in the 2007 murder conviction of Torey Adamcik and erasing all hope that a convicted killer would ever walk the streets as a free man.
All Andrew and his family want is to move forward with their lives. They have their closure and deal with it every day.
“I know how to handle it now,” he said. “It’s still a huge part of me. For me, every month of September is one I struggle to get through. It comes in waves honestly. There’s days when I’m fine and others I’ll just crumble. We love her. It’s always going to be a part of us. It’s not like it’s ever going to go away. It’s always on the back of our minds, but we focus on keeping our family strong instead of focusing on the bad. We focus on the good and when she was around still. Nobody should ever have to go through this.”