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New DNA evidence tied to Bret Snow disappearance delays Spokane murder trial

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 8, 2019

An automatic nucleic acids extraction machine used in examining DNA. On Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, the state introduced new DNA evidence in the 2015 disappearance and alleged murder of Bret Snow. (Anthony Kwan / Bloomberg)
An automatic nucleic acids extraction machine used in examining DNA. On Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, the state introduced new DNA evidence in the 2015 disappearance and alleged murder of Bret Snow. (Anthony Kwan / Bloomberg)

New DNA evidence has emerged in the 2015 disappearance of Bret Snow, a 32-year-old drug courier who prosecutors say was murdered by at least four people at a Newman Lake house. His body was never found.

The development pushed the trial of 53-year-old homicide suspect Alvaro Guajardo to June rather than last week.

Investigators found the new DNA evidence on a mattress taken from a room where Snow was likely killed and dismembered, according to court documents. Both Snow’s and Guarjardo’s DNA was found on the mattress.

“I ended up requesting the continuance,” Guajardo’s attorney, Travis Jones, said this week. “We got a report from the state on some DNA evidence.”

Detectives obtained the mattress on Nov. 13, days after Guajardo’s co-defendant Colby Vodder was given a mistrial after a jury deadlocked.

Ken Stone, another defendant who flipped and became a prosecution witness in late September – a day before his longtime girlfriend Cheryl Sutton was set for trial – told investigators on Nov. 8 that a mattress in the shop where Snow was allegedly beaten and dismembered was cleaned and given to a female witness. The room where Snow was allegedly killed is where Guajardo was living at the time.

Snow was reported missing in December 2015 after investigators say he was killed after a botched drug deal. Investigators believe the suspects moved his body multiple times, first from a workshop at 7822 N. Starr Road, then to an area near Greenacres and Mount Spokane.

Detectives interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and tracked Snow’s cellphone records, leading them to charge Guajardo and Vodder. Sutton and Stone were later arrested in connection with Snow’s disappearance.

Detective Lyle Johnston, the lead investigator on the case, sent sections of the mattress to the Washington State Crime Lab on Nov. 14, according to court records. On Feb. 1 he learned that preliminary results showed Guajardo’s and Snow’s DNA were on the fabric.

The defense now argues the state dragged its feet in testing the evidence. While Jones and Guajardo were made aware of the mattress in November, say court records, they apparently didn’t know Guajardo’s DNA was on it until Monday, when a final report was introduced by the crime lab – the same day they were to select a jury before trial began Tuesday.

Jones introduced a motion the same day asking the court to dismiss the case or suppress the evidence on the basis that “disclosure of the DNA test result on the eve of trial injects facts and constitutes mismanagement of the case.”

Jones said Friday he has hired an expert of his own to analyze the DNA results in time for the June trial.

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