KENNEWICK — Benton County clerks will call 150 potential jurors for the upcoming trial of a 25-year-old woman charged in the death of a pregnant Pasco mother.
Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong spent an hour in court Thursday while Judge Robert Swisher hashed out the logistics of jury selection and other trial matters in advance of the Sept. 27 start date.
Sisouvanh Synhavong is charged in Benton County Superior Court with aggravated first-degree murder. She recently entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity."
If convicted, Sisouvanh Synhavong will spend the rest of her life in prison.
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Prosecutors allege she killed Araceli Camacho Gomez in June 2008 to steal the woman's unborn baby so she could pretend it was her own.
Camacho Gomez, 27, was killed after meeting with Sisouvanh Synhavong to get baby clothes, prosecutors say. The victim reportedly got into the back seat of her killer's car, only to be stabbed along the highway and her baby cut from the womb before being dumped in Kennewick's Columbia Park, Prosecutor Andy Miller has said.
Camacho Gomez was found dead early June 28, 2008.
Hours before, Sisouvanh Synhavong called 911 saying she had just given birth and "her baby was in distress," according to testimony from her competency hearings. It was at the hospital that authorities discovered she was not the baby's mother.
Defense lawyers Dan Arnold and Michael Iaria contend their client suffers from mental illness and needs to be treated with appropriate medications.
A state psychologist determined that she has exaggerated or feigned psychological symptoms to avoid trial.
Swisher ruled in April that Sisouvanh Synhavong has the mental abilities to assist in her defense and go before a jury.
Miller requested another evaluation of Sisouvanh Synhavong by Randall Strandquist of Eastern State Hospital once the defense confirmed they will be arguing insanity to the jury. That evaluation was done Wednesday in the Benton County jail, and Strandquist is expected to get a completed report to the lawyers before trial.
Thursday, Swisher asked Miller if he anticipates seeking more time to review the additional information. Miller said, "No, your honor."
The court hopes to seat 14 jurors, with two alternates to be picked only after closing arguments. Jury selection likely will take up the first week of trial, with lawyers planning to give opening statements and start presenting evidence the week of Oct. 4.