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Boy Tearfully Recounts Killing Migrant Worker

SATURDAY, JAN. 7, 1995

Twelve-year-old John Duncan sobbed Friday as he described how he emptied two guns into the body of a migrant worker last summer.

In a quiet, child-like voice, Duncan said he shot seasonal worker Emilio Pruneda after Pruneda had thrown a rock and injured Manuel Sanchez, whom Duncan described as his “best and only friend.”

Duncan and Sanchez, both of Wenatchee, are charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 20 shooting death of Pruneda. Sanchez, who is also 12, goes on trial Wednesday. If convicted, the youths can be held in juvenile facilities until they are 21.

Duncan testified in his own behalf during the second day of his trial.

The boys have told police Pruneda threw rocks at them after they fired too close to him with three guns they had stolen before the killing.

Sanchez got angry after Pruneda hit him with a rock, Duncan testified. Duncan reloaded one gun, and was unsure which of the boys reloaded a second gun. A third remained in a backpack.

Duncan then went back down the path to the edge of the water, jumped on a rock so he could see Pruneda and shot until both guns were empty, he testified.

But his first concern was for Sanchez, Duncan said.

“I wanted him to go to my house where my sister was so she could take him to the hospital,” the boy testified.

But Sanchez was angry and wanted revenge, Duncan said.

“He said, ‘I’m not leaving until that man’s dead,”’ Duncan testified.

“Is that why you went back and shot Mr. Pruneda?” Prosecutor Jim Hershey asked.

“I guess that was some of it,” Duncan said. “I didn’t really think.”

“Isn’t it a fact you were more interested in killing Mr. Pruneda than helping Manuel?” Hershey asked.

“No,” Duncan said. “I know Manuel very well, and he’s stubborn and he never would have left.”

Duncan then started crying.

He later testified he thought Pruneda was dead when he found him lying out of the water.

“He wasn’t moving. His eyes were halfway open and shut,” Duncan said.

“You thought he was dead because you shot him?” Hershey asked.

“No, I thought he was dead because Manuel had shot him,” Duncan said.

Duncan spoke slowly and carefully throughout his testimony when questioned by his attorney, Neil Fuller. He got flustered under crossexamination by Hershey and had to repeatedly consult a copy of his statement to police before he could describe events.

He was the only witness called by the defense.

Earlier Friday, coroner Gerald Rappe testified Pruneda died from the five shots to the chest, three of which pierced his heart.

But he said two shots to the head, one to the forehead and one to the side of the head, were significant. The one to the side likely left Pruneda unconscious, Rappe said. The one to the front of the head would have left Pruneda confused but still able to move, Rappe said.

Rappe said his visit to the site where Pruneda’s body was found convinced him the fatal shots came when Duncan was perched on the rock shooting down on Pruneda.

But he said the 45-degree angle of the shot to Pruneda’s right forehead must have come earlier.

Pruneda did not appear to be defending himself when he was killed, Rappe said.

“What I have is a fellow with 18 bullets in his body and a few grazes and absolutely no grazes to hands or arms to indicate any level of defending,” Rappe said. “The indications are he was disoriented or unconscious.”

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, and Judge John Bridges said he would issue his verdict immediately.

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