Murder charges have been dropped against a former Pasco policeman accused of strangling a prostitute 31 years ago.
Spokane County prosecutors asked a judge in a motion filed Wednesday to dismiss the case against Richard Aguirre.
Deputy Prosecutor John Driscoll said in his one-page motion that the “recent DNA results raise significant evidentary issues.”
Driscoll asked for the case to be dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could refile charges in the future.
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Ruby J. Doss was found beaten and strangled in January 1986.
The investigation into her death went cold for 29 years until detectives claimed Aguirre was a match for a DNA profile from a condom found near the murder scene.
His DNA was entered into a national database in 2014 after a Franklin County woman accused him of sexual assault.
Spokane police said his DNA also was being considered in several other unsolved homicides, according to the Spokesman-Review newspaper.
Doss was the first of at least five Spokane women strangled between January 1986 and August 1987.
But sometime after the condom was tested for DNA in 1986 at a Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, and again when it was retested in 1989 at a lab in New York, it went missing, according to court documents.
In a pretrial motion filed Oct. 9, the defense lists a lab worker who was expected to testify that she “must have disposed of the condom” sometime before the evidence was returned to the Spokane Police Department in 2001, court records show.
“Somehow, the condom in this case just disappeared,” said Aguirre’s attorney, John Henry Browne, adding that he believed a police detective working the case was the last person to handle the evidence.
The Spokane police detective denied a request for comment Thursday on the grounds that Aguirre could be retried in the future.
Prosecutor Larry Haskell confirmed the condom went missing during the investigation, but said it wasn’t material to the case since the DNA evidence that linked Aguirre to the body was already extracted, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Somehow, the condom in this case just disappeared.
John Henry Browne, Aguirre’s lawyer
“It wouldn’t have been an item that would have been paid attention to the way it would have been cause of the advances in DNA,” he said.
In March 2016, Browne tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed, saying military records proved his client was in South Korea at the time of the murder.
Haskell, who was handling the case before Driscoll, argued in 2016 that military records submitted by the defense did not say when Aguirre actually left Fairchild Air Force Base for Korea, and instead only established a reporting period, according to the Spokesman-Review.
Aguirre was a Pasco police officer for 27 years. He resigned in 2015 after he was charged in Franklin County.
Jonathan Glover of the Spokesman-Review contributed to this story.