Judge John Bridges stood on the edge of a steep embankment Thursday, looking down to the edge of the Columbia River where police say two 12-year-old boys shot a migrant worker 18 times last summer.
Bridges, acting as a Chelan County Juvenile Court judge, went to the river bank at dusk at the end of the first day of John Duncan’s trial for first-degree murder.
Bridges is hearing the case without a jury.
Duncan and Manuel Sanchez, both of Wenatchee, are charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 20 shooting death of seasonal worker Emilio Pruneda. Sanchez goes on trial Wednesday. If convicted, the youths can be held in juvenile facilities until they are 21.
Deputy Prosecutor Gordon Edgar asked the judge to view the site where Pruneda was killed after eight police officers described the location in testimony.
“The pictures we have and the diagrams do not do justice to the scene,” Edgar said, adding he wanted the judge “to know this terrain, … to see how the body was situated.”
Defense lawyer Neil Fuller objected, saying the site would have changed since the shooting. But Bridges, while conceding he really didn’t want to go out into the cold, overruled the objection.
In statements to police, both boys acknowledged shooting Pruneda. But Duncan said he reloaded two guns, then stood over the wounded man and emptied the bullets from both guns into Pruneda’s body.
The boys said Pruneda threw rocks at them after they fired too close to him with guns they had stolen that afternoon and taken to the river to play with.
Bridges, Fuller and Edgar were accompanied to the site by two police officers and Sanchez’s defense lawyer, Tom Caballero.
They squeezed through a fence’s chained gate then slid down a steep hill to get to railroad tracks that sit atop a steep embankment.
Wenatchee police Officer Traci Gordon testified she had watched from a hill 300 yards above the embankment as Duncan twice ran up the embankment, once kneeling by a gym bag where police say he had stashed extra ammunition.
Sanchez had come up the embankment once, then sat near the gym bag while Duncan went down toward the river again, she said.
Sgt. Terry Pippin showed Bridges the trail the youths allegedly used and pointed out Pruneda’s campsite, where a blanket remained.
Pippin jumped onto a rock where Duncan told authorities he stood as he emptied the bullets from two guns, shooting toward Pruneda, whose body was found just out of the water.
Officer Randy Yarnell of the East Wenatchee Police Department testified earlier Thursday he had watched through binoculars from across the river as Duncan aimed at Pruneda.
Duncan “went out on a rock, and raised his arm. Then I heard gunshots, numerous gunshots,” Yarnell said.
Yarnell acknowledged he could not see whether Duncan held a gun. “I observed a black object,” he said.
“As soon as the gunshots ceased, the subject lowered his arm. Then I heard a loud scream. When the scream ended, the subject got off the rock and (went) up the bank,” Yarnell said.