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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Pasco

Ex-Spokane man faces life for murder

A 27-year-old Pasco murder suspect facing life in prison under the three-strikes law got his first strike in Spokane County.

Joseph William Hart pleaded not guilty Tuesday n Franklin County Superior Court for second-degree murder.

Hart is accused of killing Rodger A. Lincoln, 53, outside their east Pasco mobile home last Tuesday.

Hart was 20 years old when he was convicted in Spokane County of first-degree robbery and sentenced to 46.5 month in prison. Hart stabbed a man after the man picked Hart up in a car near Coeur d'Alene Park in Browne's Addition in May 2004.

Hart got his second strike in prison for beating up a cellmate, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Though Hart's defense attorney, Scott Johnson, told Judge Craig Matheson that he's not requesting an evaluation of his client's competency, Johnson did note that “there are clearly mental health issues in this case,” according to the Associated Press.

Hart and Lincoln shared a home in the Sundance Mobile Home Park, 925 N. Elm Ave. space 72. The mobile home is one of several owned by Lourdes Health Network and is used as supported housing for people with mental illnesses.

Lincoln died of multiple stab wounds to his head and torso, autopsy results showed.

Hart is being held in the Franklin County jail on $750,000 bail.

Pasco mom chases suspected burglar

PASCO, Wash. (AP) — A suspected teen burglar in Pasco took on the wrong opponent in a foot chase.

Kim Robison didn't stop to think when her sister pointed at an intruder wearing a black, hooded jacket jumping from the second floor of her home and fleeing down the sidewalk Monday. Instead, the 29-year-old mother of two just ran after him.

Robison has run a couple of half-marathons, she said, “but I'd always lost my momentum in the winter.”

Not this year. She set a goal this winter of running 1,000 miles, which means she has to run about 19 miles each week.

“If he hadn't had a little jump on me, I think I would've caught up with him,” she said.

Robison ran four miles Monday morning, then went to lunch with her sister and their young children, only to return home for a coupon.

Robison went through the garage to get into the house, but froze when she discovered shards of glass on the laundry room floor. She backed out of the garage, hollering at her sister to corral the kids in the car.

“I asked her, 'Should I go inside?'” Robison said. “She told me, 'No, call your husband.'”

But Robison couldn't resist taking a peek through a window on the other corner of the house first.

As she came back around toward the garage, her sister yelled, “There he is!”

An intruder had broken out a screen from the second-floor window, jumped off the roof and was now darting down the sidewalk. When Robison first saw him, he was about four houses away.

She took off after the suspect.

“I was running after him like a crazy woman,” she said, laughing. “I was yelling at him, 'I see you! I'm going to get you!'”

Robison ended the chase when the intruder turned away from the neighborhood street onto a secluded path, then stopped to dial 911 as her sister had done minutes earlier. She told the emergency dispatcher the suspect's location, and police made an arrest while she was still on the phone.

Police have not identified the suspect, who is a minor.

As the adrenaline was wearing off Monday afternoon, Robison said she surprised herself during and after the chase.

“I thought I'd be scared or maybe cry,” she said. “But I'm proud that I defended my home.”

Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com

Pasco man convicted of 5 murders

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Vicente Ruiz was convicted today of the 1987 slayings of five men and the wounding of a sixth in a Pasco garage in what a prosecutor called “the most heinous” crime in the history of Franklin County.

A Spokane County Superior Court jury found him guilty of five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Ruiz, 46, faces a life sentence for going into Medina's Body Shop with his cousin on Oct. 13, 1987, and opening fire on six men.

He fled after the shootings and was not arrested until 2006 in Mexico. He was extradited in June 2007.

Ruiz did not take the witness stand. His lawyers called it a case of mistaken identity.

Defense lawyer Kevin Holt said the verdict will be appealed.

“They've just tied another albatross around Franklin County that's going to be around for another 18 months until this comes back,” he said. “It's not a just verdict.”

Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe said the verdict was justice for five families.

“It was a long, hard and expensive road, but this crime was the most heinous in the history of Franklin County and it is only right that those who perpetrated this atrocity will spend their lives in prison,” Lowe said.

Jurors got the case on Monday after a monthlong trial.

No motive was ever firmly established, although there was testimony that the body shop modified vehicles used in drug smuggling.

Killed were: Misael Barajas, 22; Juan Antonio Lopez Garcia, 20; Eliceo Guzman Lamas, 20; and Rafael Parra Magallon, 22, all of Pasco; and Francisco Venegas Cortez, 21, of Kennewick.

The lone survivor, Aldo Montes Lamas, who testified against Ruiz, survived by squirming under a car in the garage. Montes Lamas, now 47, was hit in the stomach by a ricocheting bullet.

Asked during the trial to identify one of the shooters, Montes Lamas pointed at Ruiz.

Ruiz came into the shop with two guns, poked Montes Lamas in the shoulder with one of them and in Spanish told him, “It's over,” the survivor testified.

Ruiz' cousin, Pedro Mendez-Reyna, was convicted in 1994 for his role in the shootings and is serving a life sentence.

Local jury mulling Pasco murder case

(AP) — A jury of 12 Spokane County residents is deliberating a verdict in the aggravated murder trial of a man accused of killing five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop.

The trial that started Nov. 9 went to the jury Monday. Jurors deliberated for about four hours before going home, according to the Tri-Cty Herald. They returned this morning.

The 46-year-old defendant, Vicente Ruiz, decided not to take the witness stand.

His lawyers say it's a case of mistaken identity.

Another man charged in the shootings was convicted and sentenced to a life in prison. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty if Ruiz is convicted.

This is his third murder trial. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County.

Read an in-depth story from the Herald on the trial's closing arguments by clicking the link below.

Pasco murder trial wraps up in Spokane

(AP) — Vicente Ruiz decided not to take the witness stand Wednesday in the final day of testimony at his aggravated murder trial in Spokane.

The Tri-City Herald reports jurors had a day off Thursday while lawyers debate jury instructions. The case is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments.

The 46-year-old Ruiz is accused of being one of two men who killed five men and wounded another in a 1987 shooting at a Pasco auto body shop. His lawyers say it’s a case of mistaken identity.

This is his third murder trial. The case was moved to Spokane after two mistrials in Franklin County.

Read in-depth trial coverage from the Herald by clicking the link below.

Cell phone call leads to juror’s dismissal

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — One of the jurors has been dismissed at the aggravated murder trial in Spokane of a man accused of killing five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago.

The Tri-City Herald reports the juror was excused Tuesday because he was making a cell phone call in a hallway and may have seen the defendant in the custody of guards. The court has taken care not to show Vicente Ruiz in custody to avoid the implication of guilt.

Two alternates remain on the jury.

The trial of the 46-year-old was moved to Spokane from Franklin County after two mistrials.

Prosecutors are wrapping up their case and the defense may start calling witnesses on Friday.

Read a longer story from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.

Past coverage:

Dec. 7: Spokane medical examiner is ‘87 Pasco murder witness

Medical examiner is ‘87 murder witness

A Pasco murder trial moved to Spokane because of extensive publicity featured testimony Monday from Spokane County Medical Examiner John Howard.

Howard performed autopsies on the five men killed in the 1987 Pasco body shop slayings and described their gunshot wounds to jurors.

Three of the men, who were all reportedly lined up inside a garage before being gunned down, were hit two times, Howard said. Another had four gunshot wounds and the fifth was struck seven times, with four bullets hitting the same area in his back, Howard said.

Some of the injuries were consistent with “being confronted and ducking or turning around,” Howard confirmed for prosecutors.

 Howard was a Washington State Forensic Pathology Fellow based at the University of Washington 23 years ago when the Franklin County coroner asked him to examine the five victims.

Howard was testifying in the trial of Vicente Ruiz, the second man accused in the killings in Medina’s Body Shop on Oct. 13, 1987.

Ruiz, 46, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

The case was moved to Spokane because of extensive media coverage during the first two trials, which both ended in mistrials.

This trial started Nov. 9 with jury selection, and has gone through 12 days of witness testimony. Prosecutors expect to wrap up their case later this week, with defense lawyers planning to call their first witness Friday.

The trial has included a refusal to testify by a convicted killer whose life was spared when he agreed to testify against Ruiz, his cousin. The Tri-City Herald reports Pedro Mendez-Reyna asserted his right not to incriminate himself 29 times before the jury last Thursday and was found in contempt of court for refusing to testify.

Read in-depth coverage from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.

Spokane jury hearing Pasco murder case

(AP) — Testimony continued today in the aggravated murder trial of a man accused of killing five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago.

The trial of 46-year-old Vicente Ruiz was moved to Spokane County from Franklin County after two mistrials. Court officials are from Franklin County, but the jury is comprised of Spokane County residents. Testimony began Wednesday.

The Tri-City Herald reports that prosecutors told the jury Ruiz was identified by the lone survivor of the 1987 shooting. Defense lawyers say it’s a case of mistaken identity. One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence.

This is the third trial for Ruiz. His first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports.

Read an in-depth story from the Tri-City Herald on the trial’s opening day by clicking the link below

Pasco murder trial starts in Spokane

(AP) — Jury selection is under way this week in Spokane for the third aggravated murder trial of a man accused of shooting five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop.

The trial of Vicente Ruiz was moved from Pasco to Spokane because of news coverage of his first two trials.

The first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports.

The Tri-City Herald reports a sixth shooting victim who survived identified Ruiz as one of two gunmen, but his lawyer says it’s a case of mistaken identity.

One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence. Franklin County Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell is presiding over the trial, which is being held in room 400. A jury of Spokane County residents will be selected.

Read a story from the Tri-City Herald by clicking the link below.

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