Kenneth Arrasmith has emerged as something of a righteous avenger here since his arrest last month for the shooting deaths of Ronald and Luella Bingham.
The couple had twice been charged with raping young girls and was the subject of two other rapes at the time of the shooting. One involved Arrasmith’s 15-year-old daughter.
In a preliminary court hearing Wednesday, word emerged that area drug investigators had heard Ronald Bingham put out a “hit” on Arrasmith, offering a pound of methamphetamine to anyone who would kill him.
But any thought of cutting Arrasmith some legal slack will be left to a jury. Magistrate Bill Hamlett on Wednesday ruled the former Asotin County sheriff’s deputy should stand trial in district court on two counts of first-degree murder. Wednesday’s hearing was held to determine whether the case should be handed over to a jury in district court.
Arrasmith supporters sporting burgundy ribbons and buttons that said “Protect Our Children” didn’t hold sway. Rather, seven hours of testimony that included reports of 36 shots fired, an Uzi-style semiautomatic hidden in a box and Arrasmith’s last remark to Ronald Bingham - “I’ve got something special for you” - suggests the murders were premeditated, intentional and made in “a killing state of mind,” Hamlett concluded.
If anything, any theory of Arrasmith as an “agent of vengeance” would only hurt his case, Hamlett said.
“My goodness, if that’s the case, that speaks to premeditation,” he said. “That doesn’t speak to passion.”
For his part, Arrasmith sat calmly through the proceedings, holding hands with his wife, Donita, during the rare breaks and smiling broadly to the two dozen family members and other supporters.
Seated near Donita was a woman raped at the age of 16 while babysitting for the Binghams in 1984. She wore a button that said “Daughter of Ken Arrasmith,” implying a bond as strong as a family tie.
In one of many sidelights to the proceedings, Arrasmith’s father-andson defense team of Roy and Craig Mosman suggested Nez Perce County Prosecutor Denise Rosen asked the woman not to talk with the defense. Rosen said she only asked her not to talk to the press.
Also on Wednesday, a spectator was barred from the courtroom after a Nez Perce sheriff’s deputy overheard him talk about putting a bullet through Arrasmith’s head.
Arrasmith is being held without bail in the Nez Perce County Jail. He is scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday.
On May 17, shortly before noon, Arrasmith, 44, drove his extendedcab Toyota pickup truck to the Bingham’s East Lewiston auto repair shop. Robert Warnock, a 17-year-old mechanic, said a man resembling Arrasmith approached Luella Bingham with a box and said “Ron left this at my house.”
Another mechanic who Warnock only described as “a kid” was standing on a milk crate working on a pickup engine, while Ron Bingham lay on his back underneath the truck’s bed. When Luella Bingham appeared to ignore Arrasmith’s remark, Arrasmith went around to the back of the truck and said, “I’ve got something for you. I’ve got something special for you.”
At that point, said Warnock, “all I heard was shots.” They came in bursts, he said.
“I turned thinking it was firecrackers or something wrong with the truck,” he said. “Then the kid took off running so I just took off.”
Nez Perce deputies called to the scene by several reports of gunfire found Luella Bingham lying on her stomach with her arms folded beneath her. She was shot in the back, prompting Hamlett to say her murder was “essentially the assasination of a witness.”
Ronald Bingham was found on his back with bullet wounds to his abdomen, chest and neck. Both Binghams had methamphetamine in their bloodstreams, an autopsy showed.
Deputies recovered 36 spent 9mm shell casings from the scene. About half an hour later, an upset Arrasmith approached Ron Roberts, a Clarkston, Wash., police detective sergeant, just outside the Clarkston station and handed him the key to his Toyota.
“I said something about him not being involved” in the murders, said Roberts, a friend of Arrasmith’s since grade school. “He didn’t respond. At that point, I figured he probably was involved.”
Nez Perce deputies soon after found in the Toyota a 9mm Tech Nine semiautomatic handgun and a 9mm Ruger automatic pistol. The Tech Nine had a 30-round clip and the Ruger had a 14-round clip.
Investigators also found a .357 handgun, a .22-caliber automatic pistol and a rifle with a 30-round clip.
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