News Flash: Mom Says Pearl Jam Video Upset Son Accused Of Killing Three

The video for Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" was screened this week by a Seattle jury considering whether it had any bearing on a 16-year-old boy charged with using his father's rifle to shoot four people in a Frontier Junior High School math class last year, The Seattle Times reported.

JoAnn Phillips, mother of suspect Barry Loukaitis, told jurors her son was "real fidgety and uncomfortable" when watching the video and apparently had the lyrics memorized, according to the Times. Both the video and the song portray the story of a maligned teenager who takes out his angst on his classmates by shooting them.

The five-year-old video, the last one Pearl Jam made, concludes with a montage of images portraying an apparent classroom suicide while Eddie Vedder sings "Jeremy spoke in class today."

The Moses Lake, Wash. police told ATN that Loukaitis was charged after allegedly shooting and severely wounding classmate Natalie Hintz, then 13, and killing two other students, Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz, both 14, as well as algebra teacher Leona Caires, 40, in the Feb. 2, 1996 incident.

Loukaitis, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, is being tried as an adult. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to three charges of aggravated first-degree murder, one count each of attempted murder and second-degree assault, and 16 counts of kidnapping. If convicted, Loukaitis could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Phillips, unlike the families involved in the famed rock-and-suicide cases against Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne in the mid-1980s, does not place the blame squarely at Pearl Jam's door.

According to the Times, she told the jury yesterday about a history of depressive illness in her family, which stretches back for four generations. Terry Loukaitis, the boy's father and Phillips' ex-husband, testified about three generations' worth of depressive illnesses in his family.

Phillips also told the jury that she treated her son as a confidant and told him everything, including plans to kill herself in front of her ex-husband and his new girlfriend on Valentine's Day, 1996. She said her son tried to encourage her not to do it and to channel her energies into writing about it, but he eventually just advised her to "do whatever you want to do."

Frontier Junior High School had no comment and defense attorney Michelle Shaw and Pearl Jam could not be reached for comment. -- Randy Reiss [Thurs., Sept. 11, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]

Latest News