A jury found Tuesday that Stafone Fuentes was not guilty of killing a 26-year-old man outside of a Spokane club in 2013, according to court documents.
The shooting death had been a cold case for five years when prosecutors charged Fuentes with killing Julian Morrison. In September 2013, Morrison was shot several times outside of the now-shuttered club The Hop in what police believed was a gang-related dispute.
At the time of the killing, witnesses described two men – Kalen Bedford and Fuentes’ cousin, Carlos Fuentes – getting in an argument with Morrison outside the club. Bedford and Carlos Fuentes were members of a gang Stafone Fuentes had been associated with, court documents say.
Witnesses described Bedford pulling a handgun out of his car and shooting Morrison several times, even after he was dead, according to court documents.
Initially, Bedford and Carlos Fuentes were charged with murder, but a month after the shooting, prosecutors dismissed Bedford’s charges.
Carlos Fuentes eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to a year in prison.
In January 2018, in an unrelated attempted murder case, a jury said it could not determine Fuentes’ guilt. Just a day after Fuentes dodged that conviction, prosecutors charged Fuentes with Morrison’s murder, beginning a nearly three-year battle in court.
Joe Kuhlman, Stafone Fuentes’ attorney, said he didn’t know why prosecutors dismissed Bedford’s charges or why witnesses started connecting his client to the murder years later.
“I took a very straightforward approach with this,” Kuhlman said. “We can’t charge three men with the conduct of two. The eyewitness testimony of the suspects did not match my client.”
At the time Bedford’s charges were dismissed, police said many witnesses on the scene were not forthcoming with information, complicating the investigation. New information found in November led to the court dropping the charges.
Kuhlman said the state’s case against Stafone Fuentes was built on incentivized witnesses who couldn’t corroborate each other’s stories.
“Every one of the state’s witnesses contradicted each other,” Kuhlman said. “That’s what happens when you throw deals at people.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.