California’s highway 101 runs north-south and in 2019 there was a mysterious spate of projectiles that were hitting cars traveling through a particular stretch of that road just north of Monterey where I live. Over 70 incidents were reported. There were no crashes or fatalities but six people suffered cuts and bruises when the glass shattered. It was unsettling and police found it hard to track down the culprit. I always assumed that it would turn out to be young kids who had nothing better to do and thought this was an amusing way of passing the time.
But in January 2020, police arrested a suspect and it turned out to be a 54-year old man Charles Kenneth Lafferty who was firing marbles with a slingshot.
After his arrest, he admitted to shooting marbles at traffic using a slingshot. Police seized a slingshot, a replacement band and 55 marbles from Lafferty’s vehicle the day he was arrested. He never provided the number of times he fired the marbles at cars.
Yesterday he was sentenced.
A man convicted of hurling projectiles mostly at moving vehicles on Highway 101 in late 2019 has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Charles Kenneth Lafferty, 54, was sentenced after guilty pleas to 28 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer.
He even hit a state highway patrol car.
Authorities initially thought, like me, that it must be a young person.
Monterey County Supervisor John Phillips, whose district includes the highway areas where the attacks occurred, had put up some of his own money to fund a $15,000 reward leading to an arrest in the case. In the end, the money wasn’t paid out because the case was solved by police work.
“It really instilled fear among people. It was so random,” Phillips, a former prosecutor and judge, said Thursday when informed of the plea. “It created a tremendous amount of angst and it was a crime so difficult to solve. Everyone thought it was a young kid doing it and it turned out how wrong we were.”
At the time that he entered his guilty pleas, authorities still could not figure out his motivation.
And as Hood read off the charges, Lafferty responded “guilty” 30 times.
That’s the what. But Deputy District Attorney Matt L’Heureux said after the hearing that the “why” will most likely remain a mystery.
“In his interview, he said he didn’t know why he did it and we never found anything to indicate why he did it,” L’Heureux said.
In reading stories like this, the first question that comes to my mind is, “What was he thinking?” It really puzzles me why an older man would indulge in this childish but dangerous activity. He seemed to have gone to great lengths to do this, such as finding places which were close enough to hit cars with a slingshot and yet hidden from view. Young people may not fully think through the consequences of their actions but you would hope that adults would.
At first blush, 15 years in prison seems like a lot for firing marbles at cars with a slingshot. But on the other hand, things could have turned out very badly. It is lucky that none of the people hit crashed their cars and caused deaths. But it raises an interesting question about whether punishments should be based on the actual damage caused or the potential damage that might have occurred or the intent of the action. Was he trying to causes crashes and deaths or just getting a kick out of being a pest?
People can be so strange.