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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Convicted murderer James Cloud denied new trial in Yakama Reservation mass killing

Mugshots of James Dean Cloud, left, and Donovan Quinn Cloud.  (Courtesy of Yakama Nation)
Mugshots of James Dean Cloud, left, and Donovan Quinn Cloud. (Courtesy of Yakama Nation)
By Phil Ferolito Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA – James Dean Cloud – convicted of several counts of first-degree murder in the 2019 mass killing on the Yakama Reservation – will not get a new trial, a federal judge recently ruled.

After being convicted by a jury, his defense team argued the prosecution failed to prove first-degree murder and sought a partial acquittal and new trial.

Both motions were denied earlier this week.

James Cloud and Donovan Quinn Carter Cloud were blamed for the shooting rampage that left five dead at a Medicine Valley trailer west of White Swan deep within the reservation.

Killed were John Cagle, 59, Michelle Starnes, 51, Catherine Eneas, 49, Thomas Hernandez, 36, and Dennis Overaker, 61, at a trailer in the remote area of Medicine Valley on June 8, 2019.

The Clouds were charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane with murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a firearm with intent to commit bodily injury.

Their trials were scheduled separately with James Cloud’s trial first. On March 9, a jury found James Cloud guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and carjacking in the matter.

Hours later, Donovan Cloud avoided trial by pleading guilty to carjacking and brandishing a firearm while committing a crime. His plea agreement shields him from the murder charges.

James Cloud’s defense team argued that Donovan Cloud and the prosecution’s star witness, Morris Jackson, were the ones behind the shooting and that James Cloud was swept up in the violence that day.

Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors failed to provide the jury adequate evidence for first-degree murder convictions.

On Monday, Judge Justice Stanley A. Bastian disagreed and denied both motions.

“Rather than reviewing the evidence in the light more favorable to the prosecution, the substantial evidence supports the jury’s finding that the government proved the elements of first-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bastian wrote in his ruling Monday.

Both Clouds will be sentenced in Yakima on Sept. 27.

James Cloud faces a potential life sentence while Donovan Cloud could be sentenced up to 27 years in prison.

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