Supreme Court upholds conviction in 2008 slaying of pregnant Pasco mother

Tri-City HeraldOctober 18, 2012 

— The conviction for a Kennewick woman who killed a pregnant mother and tried to claim the baby as her own was upheld today by the state's highest court.

Phiengchai Sisouvanh, 27, will remain in prison for life for the 2008 crime, based on the opinion released by the Washington state Supreme Court.

It was a unanimous decision by the court's nine justices, who heard arguments in May from Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller and defense lawyer Michael Iaria of Seattle.

Iaria sought to get his client's aggravated first-degree murder conviction reversed and a new trial granted. He claimed Sisouvanh was not an average girl living an all-American life, yet that's how a clinical psychologist treated her when determining she was competent to stand trial.

Randall Strandquist failed to consider Sisouvanh's ethnic and cultural diversity or seek help from qualified colleagues with experience in that area, Iaria argued.

He said Sisouvanh was raised in what essentially could be viewed as a concentration camp in Thailand and was severely beaten and verbally abused, all of which led to a dissociative disorder and signs of post traumatic stress disorder.

In rejecting Iaria's claims, the court's justices found that Sisouvanh's competency evaluation at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake was done by a "qualified expert or professional person."

"The court-appointed expert who evaluated Sisouvanh reasonably explained the propriety of the tests he administered and his interpretation of Sisouvanh's behavior. and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by accepting the expert's examination and report as having been conducted in a qualified manner sufficient to satisfy (Washington law)," the opinion states.

Sisouvanh's trial was held in Benton County Superior Court and was presided over by Judge Robert Swisher.

She was convicted by a jury in October 2010 for the death of Araceli Camacho Gomez — a Pasco woman who was stabbed 47 times before her nearly full-term baby was cut from her womb.

The baby boy survived, but Camacho Gomez's body was found early June 28, 2008, at Kennewick's Columbia Park.

Sisouvanh had told her family she was pregnant and claimed to be 10 days overdue when she met the 27-year-old victim at a bus stop, where Camacho Gomez was waiting with her two children.

Sisouvanh planned to claim it was her baby after she called 911 for help, but emergency room doctors soon determined she was not the baby's mother.

For more on this story, read Friday's Herald and tricityherald.com.

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