Police roundup: Benton City woman charged in death of baby

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 4, 2013 

A Benton City woman is expected in court in two weeks after being charged in the death of her young daughter who drowned when left alone in a bathtub.

Wendi Finkbeiner-Setzer, 39, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree manslaughter. She's accused of being criminally negligent when she left her two children in the bathtub unsupervised.

Benton County sheriff's deputies investigated the death of 1-year-old Piper K. Finkbeiner, who was found face down and not breathing in the bathtub of her Thunder Road home Nov. 5.

Piper was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, then flown to Seattle Children's Hospital. Doctors determined Piper was brain dead and she was taken off life support Nov. 12, court documents said.

Finkbeiner-Setzer said she left Piper and her 2-year-old sister alone for not more than five minutes in about 10-12 inches of water, documents said.

She reportedly left the bathroom to do some work on a computer.

She told detectives that the 2-year-old might have turned on the water faucet, but deputies noted the water had overflowed from the bathtub because the floor of the bathroom was wet, documents said.

Throw rugs in the bathroom and the carpet under the door between the bathroom and bedroom were also soaked, documents said.

Piper was found drowned in the tub by Finkbeiner-Setzer's 18-year-old son who checked on the girls when he got home, documents said.

Pasco shooting suspect arrested in New Mexico

A Pasco shooting suspect is expected back in a New Mexico courtroom next week after making an initial appearance Wednesday following his arrest as an out-of-state fugitive.

It's not clear, however, when Fernando Jesus Loera will be returned to Franklin County, where he was charged in Superior Court with two counts of first-degree assault.

Loera, 21, had a $500,000 warrant out for his arrest and was tracked down and arrested in Clovis, N.M., on Monday.

Loera had been sought since the Dec. 26 shooting in a parking lot at 10th and Lewis streets, which left one man with gunshot wound to his leg.

The next day, Pasco police located the truck Loera had been driving, then followed leads until Loera was found at a New Mexico motel.

According to court documents, Jose Mendoza was at the Metro Mart with his brother, Raul Larios, when Loera fired two shots at them.

Mendoza reportedly went into the store to get some peppers for his tacos when he apparently was confronted by a clerk who thought he had stolen something, documents said.

Mendoza then appeared to exchange words with a man at the cash register, who was later identified as Loera.

When Mendoza left the store, he went to the corner of the parking lot where Larios was putting air in the tires of his vehicle, documents said.

Loera walked to his Chevy Silverado extended-cab truck that was parked in front of the gas pumps and fired two shots at Mendoza, who was standing near his brother's car, documents said.

The first shot hit Mendoza in the right leg. The second shot hit the lower front of the right door, missing Larios by a few inches, documents said.

Loera then got into the truck with a woman and sped away.

Pasco police used surveillance video from inside the convenience store to help identify Loera, who had bought $7 worth of gas, documents said.

Mendoza, who was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, later positively identified Loera through a photo lineup.

Online court records show Loera's next hearing in Curry County Magistrate Court is set for Thursday.

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