Pasco murder suspect competent, judge rules

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldDecember 23, 2011 

A 32-year-old murder suspect didn't believe his former girlfriend was dead after he was arrested 11/2 years ago for fatally stabbing her.

During an interview at the Pasco police station, Gregorio Luna Luna kept saying he didn't believe Griselda Ocampo Meza was dead, Pasco police Detective Kirk Nebeker testified Thursday in Franklin County Superior Court.

Nebeker said he then showed him pictures of her body.

Nebeker and Officer Scott Warren, who was the on-call detective May 24, 2010, when the 21-year-old Pasco woman was killed, testified during a hearing to determine if statements Luna Luna made to police can be used at his trial.

Defense attorney Karla Kane contended Luna Luna's statements were not made voluntarily or freely, but Judge Robert Swisher ruled that Luna Luna was properly advised of his rights before he voluntarily agreed to be interviewed at the police station.

"The defendant did not question any of his rights and again was coherent and did not appear confused," Swisher ruled. "He never asked for an attorney and he never invoked his rights to remain silent."

Swisher also set Luna Luna's trial for Feb. 13 after signing an order saying Luna Luna was competent to stand trial. Luna Luna had been evaluated at Eastern State Hospital after defense attorneys questioned his mental health.

Luna Luna is charged with first-degree murder after allegedly stabbing Ocampo Meza in the chest at her Pasco apartment.

Ocampo Meza was killed about four months after her long-term relationship with Luna Luna ended and less than a month after he was deported to Mexico. The couple's then-5-year-old son was home during the attack, but was whisked away by his mother's new boyfriend before she was killed.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra were appointed special prosecutors on the case for the state because of a conflict with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.

Swisher also talked to Luna Luna about the three letters he previously had written to the judge claiming his attorneys were being negligent in representing him and questioning the speed of the proceedings. Luna Luna is represented by Kane and Shelley Ajax.

In a hearing last month, Swisher said he couldn't address the letters until Luna Luna's competency issue was resolved.

"From my observations, they are doing everything they can on your behalf, and I do know them both as very good attorneys ... attorneys who specialize in criminal defense," the judge said.

Luna Luna, who spoke in Spanish to Swisher through court interpreter Ana Armijo, said he may have misinterpreted them but "they abandoned me for a very long period of time."

"I would like to be informed of everything that is going on in my case. Only lately have they used an interpreter and I am finding out that things are very different than what they have said to me," Luna Luna said. "I feel that because I am an illegal it has been a big factor as to the reason why they have ignored me."

Ajax told Swisher that she has had an interpreter with her when she meets with her client because she doesn't speak Spanish and also told the court that she and Kane represent illegal immigrants on a regular basis.

Kane, who does speak Spanish fluently, said she has used an interpreter also when meeting with Luna Luna, but if there is a quick question or issue and an interpreter isn't available, she will sometimes go to the jail to talk to him.

Swisher told Luna Luna he knew the delay in proceedings frustrated him. He said both defense attorneys are "highly skilled," and he has seen "no evidence that they represent a person different based on their nationality or their race."

Judge Cameron Mitchell also briefly heard arguments in Luna Luna's case over a defense motion to suppress DNA evidence that they say was not properly obtained.

Kane said there was not sufficient probable cause for Judge Swisher to allow a DNA swab of Luna Luna to compare it to blood found at the scene.

Miller countered that the judge referred to the probable cause affidavit and heard testimony from Detective Warren who said witnesses reported Luna Luna bled in the area where a fight had occurred.

Mitchell denied the defense motion, saying the record was clear that prosecutors and the judge referred to the probable cause affidavit that indicated witnesses saw Luna Luna going into apartment C6 where the victim was found, and then going to apartment C4 where he got into a fight with another person.

"The court finds there was probable cause to believe that evidence of the crime in this case would be found by taking a DNA sample of the defendant to compare to blood found in apartment C4 and C6," Mitchell said.

Swisher is the judge assigned to preside over Luna Luna's case, but Mitchell heard the DNA suppression motion because Swisher was the judge who signed the order.

w Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tri cityherald.com

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