Jury convicts Pe Ell man for premeditated murder 


A Lewis County jury convicted Kelly David Hribar, 46, of Pe Ell, of first-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm Wednesday afternoon for fatally shooting 40-year-old Leonard Kowalsky near Pe Ell in August. 

The trial began Monday, Oct. 16 and concluded Wednesday, Oct. 25. The jury delivered its sentence within a few hours after the start of deliberations. 

In this case, the jury was not tasked with determining whether or not Hribar murdered Kowalsky with a firearm that was illegal for him to have, as all parties agree the evidence supporting those allegations is indisputable. 

Instead, the state prosecution and the defense asked the jury to determine whether Hribar was guilty of first-degree murder as charged by the state, or second-degree murder as argued by Hribar’s defense attorney.

Both charges are class A felonies punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, but while Washington state law allows a judge to set a lower sentence for a second-degree murder conviction, life in prison is the mandatory sentence for a first-degree murder conviction. 

First-degree murder requires the state to prove the murder was premeditated, while second-degree murder does not. 

Washington state law defines premediation as “more than a moment in point of time.”

Second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. 

Hribar’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled on Nov. 2. Under Washington state law, Lewis County Superior Court has 40 days from the day the jury delivered its verdict to sentence Hribar. 

Hribar and Kowalsky both visited the same gas station shortly before the shooting on Wednesday, Aug. 16. Witnesses also at the station reportedly heard Hribar say he planned to confront Kowalsky, and surveillance footage shows Hribar drive away from the gas station — shortly after Kowalsky arrived — toward Kowalsky’s residence instead of toward his own home. Physical evidence from the scene and witness testimony show Kowalsky backed his pickup into the brush in an unofficial parking area on state Route 6 near the intersection with Katula Street, on which Hribar lived. Kowalsky reportedly drove past Hribar’s car west on state Route 6, made a U-turn and had started driving east back toward Pe Ell when Hribar fired his shotgun three times, striking Kowalsky at least once, with the fatal shot striking his left buttock and becoming lodged in his torso.

Hribar fled the scene after the shooting. Kowalsky remained conscious long enough to tell first responders “Kelly shot me” and fell unconscious while en route to Pe Ell School. He was airlifted from the school to Tacoma General Hospital, where he died. 

Prior to Kowalsky’s death, he was the victim of an attack on Nov. 18, 2009. Kowalsky, at the age of 26, survived an ambush attack that left him with a crossbow bolt wound to the neck and several stab wounds to his abdomen, face, hands and chest. 

The attacker in that case was convicted of first-degree assault and sentenced to 13 years in prison, according to previous Chronicle reporting. 

At the time, Kowalsky told The Chronicle, “I would have rather gone fisticuffs than the way it happened … I was lucky it didn’t kill me.”