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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Conviction overturned for man accused of killing Bret Snow; third trial expected

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 9, 2021

Colby Vodder, in white shirt, is led to court Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Colby Vodder, in white shirt, is led to court Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The man who already has been tried twice for killing Bret Snow is set to face a third trial after the Washington State Court of Appeals Division III overturned his conviction earlier this year.

Colby D. Vodder, 31, appeared in court Monday on charges of first-degree murder, predicated on kidnapping.

Prosecutors alleged Vodder helped kill Snow, 32, in a workshop building near Newman Lake with three other people in 2015. Neither Snow’s body nor the murder weapon were ever found. Investigators believe the slaying was drug-related and that Snow may have been beaten to death and dismembered to hide evidence of the killing.

Vodder was first tried in 2018, and the jury found him not guilty on a kidnapping conspiracy. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on two murder charges.

He was retried and found guilty in 2019 of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the crime. Shortly after the trial, Vodder appealed the conviction.

In June, the appeals court ruled that lead Det. Lyle Johnston was improperly allowed to testify that he believed Vodder was guilty.

The issue arose when the defense asked Johnston if he told Vodder’s mother he thought Vodder killed Snow, according to court records.

Prosecutors objected that the question was hearsay, but Spokane Superior Court Judge Raymond Clary overruled them.

Prosecutors later asked Johnston, “Did you believe (Vodder) was guilty of the crime?”

Johnston replied “Yes,” according to court records.

The appeals court ruled that Johnston’s testimony was improper opinion and should not have been allowed by the court.

In order to retry Vodder on the murder charge, he had to appear in court and have his bond reset. He remains in the Spokane County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Vodder’s co-defendants, Alvaro Guajardo and Cheryl Sutton, were tried separately and received prison sentences after jury convictions.

Guajardo was sentenced to a 47-year prison sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He also appealed his conviction, while one count was overturned, and is set to be resentenced due to a state supreme court decision invalidating some drug convictions.

Sutton was sentenced to 31 years in prison, but is in the middle of serving her federal drug sentence at a facility in Waseca, Minnesota. On appeal, Sutton’s conviction was upheld.

Another man involved in the killing, Kenneth Stone, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder, for which he is serving time concurrent with a 12-year stay in federal prison for drug charges.

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