‘This isn’t Josh’: Family, friends and Joshuah Rainbolt speak in court

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Those who knew Joshua Rainbolt, who pled guilty in April to the murder of his best friend, Blake Box-Skinner, in January 2017, said the actions taken that night do not reflect the young man they knew.

Defense attorney Mark Clark also brought forth two of Rainbolt and Box-Skinner’s friends — Jasmyn Price and Derian Mahan, who lived with both young men for a while at the Lost River Road home where the shooting occurred.

Price is an Eastern High School graduate, but attended West Washington with Rainbolt and Box-Skinner and became friends with them after the boys graduated.

“Josh was very quiet,” she said. “He didn’t open up a lot unless he knew you really well. When we moved in together [meaning she and Mahan, her boyfriend at the time, began sharing the house with Rainbolt and Box-Skinner], he opened up more.”

Clark said Price had described him as “a teddy bear” who was loving and kind. However, her comfort in her home began to change around Christmas 2016.

“I had this gut feeling around Christmas that I didn’t want to live there anymore,” she said. She moved into the apartment her mother had in Pekin and her mother moved to Salem.

Price said this may have upset Rainbolt financially and the two had an argument the night she left and she said either Rainbolt or Mahan shoved the other and they left.

“Josh would yell if he got angry, but he wouldn’t get aggressive,” she said.

Both Price and Mahan said in their testimonies that money they gave Rainbolt for the house (electricity bills and such) would not end up where it was supposed to and the electricity was turned off more than once because of it. They also both agreed that guns were present in the home, but never left sitting around. Mahan said they had taken hunter’s education classes as children and Box-Skinner kept his guns properly in a safe in his bedroom.

Price said marijuana use was a daily occurrence in the home, with both Rainbolt and Box-Skinner smoking daily, along with Mahan and Price using it frequently as well. She said Rainbolt could be “stingy” with his supply of marijuana, but, when he did share, he shared with anyone who was at the house.

She described Box-Skinner and Rainbolt as best friends, like family.

“I never would have thought [Rainbolt would do this],” she said. She added later that Rainbolt was a compulsive liar and could be manipulative if he really wanted something. But would he murder to get what he wanted from Box-Skinner?

“Absolutely not,” Price said, adding he wouldn’t have to. “Blake would do anything for anyone.”

She said she didn’t know what could have caused the shooting to take place. “I could not see Josh getting mad about something to the extent he wouldn’t calm himself down before killing his best friend.”

Mahan said their friend group — Box-Skinner, Rainbolt, himself, Price and Logan and Landis Guthrie — were inseparable and described them as “brothers.” Rainbolt, he said, was soft-spoken and quiet, keeping to himself unless he was with the friend group. He had never seen Rainbolt have a meltdown, but said that Rainbolt would tell the same story over and over again, with new or altered details. “It was like he’d forgotten how it happened,” Mahan said.

Mahan and Price lived with Box-Skinner and Rainbolt for about six months and said he, Box-Skinner and Rainbolt were all temporarily employed at Kimball’s through Manpower, a temp agency. Everyone got along, hanging out, smoking pot and playing video games when they weren’t at work. Mahan said if Box-Skinner wasn’t at work or at the house, he was with his girlfriend.

He said Rainbolt never got physical with either him or Box-Skinner and never say him destroy something in anger.

Mahan got the news that Box-Skinner was dead the night he was found and the group of friends gathered the next day.

“I was devastated,” Mahan said. “It was never what we had expected. They were like brothers.”

Victoria Britton is Rainbolt’s aunt. She said she saw him monthly and sometimes took trips with him. It wasn’t unusual for Box-Skinner to come with Rainbolt for family events and she said the family included Box-Skinner as one of their own. She said her nephew was “always wanting everyone to have fun, get along and enjoy things.” He was never confrontational or violent. She said he always got along with other kids as a child, including teammates of sports teams and liked being with his friends and family.

“This isn’t Josh’s character,” she said of the murder. “This isn’t Josh.”

She said she did know about the truancy charge he’d incurred while he was in school, but not that he’d been expelled. He did go back to school afterward and graduated with a 1.14 GPA, Clark later revealed.

Britton told the story of a vacation where a beach had many jellyfish trapped on the sand. She said, after getting his picture taken, Rainbolt carefully rescued one.

“This was his attitude toward living beings,” she said.

Britton said her family still supports Rainbolt and recognizes the pain caused by this to Box-Skinner’s family. She acknowledged that Rainbolt didn’t have strong family support, which garnered a scattering of whispered objections from Rainbolt’s family. Britton continued, saying the family will be there to support him when he got out of prison as well.

She’s received several letters where she says Rainbolt expressed remorse.

“He couldn’t believe his friend was gone,” she said. “He felt like he was in a bad nightmare and wanted to wake up and have everything be OK … I know people can’t know what’s going on in another person’s head, but he loved Blake … and Blake loved Josh.”

Britton said she believes what happened that night was an accident.

“What went wrong?” Medlock asked her.

“We all keep saying, ‘what happened?’” she said. “I want closure … I want closure for Blake’s family … It’s just horrible. Nothing in the world will ever make me believe this was intentional.”

Rainbolt himself took the stand then, reading from a letter he’d written for the hearing, crying throughout.

“I’m not the best person at showing emotions,” he began. “Nothing I can say will compare with what’s been said this morning [referring to Box-Skinner’s family’s testimonies] … I’m sorry to everyone today who loved him. Carol will never experience things a mother should experience with your son. Derek, I took your son away. I’m sorry, Selena, for removing the man you loved. I’m sorry to my friends. To my family, I let you down and in doing this, I’ve removed me from your life.

“… I miss Blake, I miss my friend, my brother,” he continued. “I disgraced him in the worst way … I know I acted wrong after his death and I’m sorry. I wish I had not pulled the trigger that caused Blake’s death … I hope you can forgive me.”

He said he understood the judge would give him a sentence of at least 45 years and that he would use that time to work on himself.

“I will address my drug abuse and when I get out, I will not return to drugs and try to make something of my life,” he said. “I will relive what I did every day so I can try to understand what happened.”

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