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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Aguirre retrial still set for November, amid confusion over prosecutor’s plans

Former Pasco police officer Richard Aguirre awaits his trial last week at the Spokane County Courthouse.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Prosecutors seeking to convict a cold-case homicide suspect told a judge Friday they need more time to sort out their trial plans.

A Spokane jury failed to reach a verdict when former Pasco police officer Richard Aguirre stood trial late last year for Ruby Doss’ 1986 killing.

In a tense hearing Friday, an attorney for Aguirre said she was told the case against her client would be dismissed. But that didn’t happen, as the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office attempts to regroup in the high-profile case.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Stefanie Collins immediately began preparing to retry the case after the mistrial. Defense attorney Karen Lindholdt said Friday that prosecutors had indicated three weeks ago they planned to dismiss the case, then changed course.

Collins told the judge overseeing the case that managers in the prosecutor’s office told her to change plans on the case but then reversed that directive in recent days. She did not explicitly mention the possibility of a dismissal.

“I was directed to take a different course of action three weeks ago,” Collins told the court.

Collins said she was unclear of the plan for the case moving forward but would proceed “in accordance with management.”

Collins challenged her boss, elected Prosecutor Larry Haskell, in the primary election earlier this year but lost. Haskell faces challenger Deb Conklin in the general election set for Nov. 8.

Lindholdt took over as defense council for Aguirre, 58, in January when Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, known for representing controversial, high-profile clients, withdrew from the case.

Aguirre “is very eager to get this case tried,” Lindholdt told the court before asking they keep Aguirre’s trial scheduled for November.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge John Cooney agreed to keep the trial scheduled for Nov. 14, with a pretrial hearing set for Nov. 4.

After the hearing, Collins presented Chief Criminal Prosecuting Attorney Larry Steinmetz with a stack of files on the case before leaving the courtroom.

Collins declined to comment.

Steinmetz declined to say if he was taking over the case from Collins.

Steinmetz told The Spokesman-Review the prosecutor’s office has yet to decide what to do with the case. He said he wants to contact additional witnesses.