DNA tests in Richland baby's death delayed

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 18, 2013 

A state forensic scientist has been waiting two months to test DNA samples collected after the June rape and death of a Richland baby, but has been delayed because the defense hasn't yet hired an expert, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller told the court he doesn't want the case against Jose Luis Aguilar "to indefinitely drag out" because the analysis of DNA takes a long time.

In a motion, Miller asked that the state be allowed to use up all of the DNA in the testing of swabs taken from the body of 9-month-old Serenity Jade Reedy and from Aguilar after his arrest, as well as a beer bottle and a piece of hair that was found on it.

Miller attached a string of emails with defense attorney Shelley Ajax back to July 9 and said, given her failure to timely respond and the upcoming trial date, he wants a court order to allow for consumption.

"The state is aware that Ms. Ajax had a leave of absence, but also knows that (she has a) reputation for moving her cases," Miller said, also noting that Ajax has a heavy workload.

Ajax responded that she had been talking to a DNA expert, but that person hadn't been paid for a prior Tri-City case and is not willing to proceed with other cases as a result. She said she's trying to find another person who specializes in DNA.

"I don't see the rush in regards to this," Ajax said.

Trial is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Aguilar, 36, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree murder and first-degree rape of a child. The murder charge includes the aggravating circumstances that Serenity was too young to defend herself and that the crime had a destructive impact on additional people.

The baby girl was found dead in her crib the morning of June 7. Her skull was fractured and she had a cut and injuries to her vaginal area, according to court documents.

Aguilar lived with the baby's mother, Jennifer Reedy, who told Richland police she didn't check on Serenity until 9:30 a.m. because it was normal for the girl to sleep late, documents said.

Aguilar allegedly left the home sometime in the middle of the night. He later was arrested on a Greyhound bus in Barstow, Calif., after police tracked him using the GPS in his cellphone. He was within two hours of the border with Mexico.

Aguilar had lived with Jennifer Reedy for about a month when Serenity died.

Jennifer Reedy was in court Wednesday for Aguilar's hearing.

Miller said the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Cheney contacted Richland police Detective Roy Shepherd in July about certain evidence items, saying there was so little DNA available on some of them that it may be used up or consumed in one test.

Miller then wrote Ajax so she'd have the option of sending an expert to oversee the testing, since there likely won't be DNA left over for independent defense analysis.

Miller told Judge Vic VanderSchoor that he has no objection to an expert attending the actual testing, but he wants to move forward with this so the case stays on track. He said if Ajax doesn't have someone lined up in two weeks, he will ask the judge to allow the testing without a defense expert present.

VanderSchoor agreed to postpone the issue until Oct. 2, and asked Ajax "to give this a priority."

Aguilar remains in the Benton County jail on $1 million bail.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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