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Fingerprints aid probe in Green Bluff homicide

Tue., Jan. 5, 2010, midnight

Roommate, acquaintance called persons of interest

Fingerprints lifted from plastic bags on a body near Green Bluff have given detectives their first break in a homicide that’s remained unsolved for more than two months.

Miguel A. Rodriguez-Barbosa, the teenage roommate of 25-year-old victim Jesus Torres Valdovinos, has been in Spokane County Jail on drug charges since shortly after Valdovinos’ body was found wrapped in a blanket and plastic bags along Day-Mount Spokane Road Oct. 18.

Now Rodriguez-Barbosa, 18, and an acquaintance, Marco Antonio Noriega-Lopez, 27, are considered persons of interest in the homicide of a man described in court documents as a major marijuana dealer.

A love seat sought in the investigation has never been found, but recently filed court documents say Rodriguez-Barbosa told them he removed it Oct. 14 from the Vicksburg Avenue home he shared with the victim after spilling hot sauce on it.

The teen also said a hole in the ceiling above where the love seat had been, which detectives believe was caused by gunfire, had been there for months. But according to court documents, several witnesses said they’d never seen the hole and claimed the love seat had been there the morning detectives believe Valdovinos was killed, Oct. 17.

Detectives believe Valdovinos was shot in the head at the rental home at 623 E. Vicksburg Ave. that day, then dumped about 15 miles away between 5 p.m. Oct. 17 and early Oct. 18.

Investigators combed cell phone records and cell tower records for clues, focusing on a series of phone calls Rodriguez-Barbosa made Oct. 17 to a man recently identified as Noriega-Lopez. Noriega-Lopez was arrested Dec. 29 on drug charges and remains in Spokane County Jail.

Fingerprints found on plastic bags wrapped around Valdovinos’ head match prints belonging to Rodriguez-Barbosa and Noriega-Lopez, according to court documents.

“That links the plastic bags to somebody. Whether or not that links them to that body, who can say?” Spokane County sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan said. “They’re certainly persons of interest.”

Detectives took DNA samples from Noriega-Lopez, who is charged with cocaine possession and booked on warrants for previous drunken driving and other charges, according to jail records.

They also submitted cords found wrapped around Valdovinos’ body to the state crime lab for DNA testing.

Detectives learned of Valdovinos’ alleged marijuana business from Rodriguez-Barbosa, who reportedly said he was being trained to take it over when Valdovinos traveled to Mexico for a year, according to search warrants.

Rodriguez-Barbosa is scheduled to plead guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Thursday in connection with two-thirds of a pound of marijuana police say they found in the East Vicksburg home.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady is recommending he be credited for about 70 days already served in jail. He has no previous felony convictions but will remain in jail on an immigration hold, according to jail records.

He’d been in Spokane on a work visa and cleaned repossessed homes in Spokane with his brother, a public defender said in October.

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