KENNEWICK — Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong was heard screaming about her baby dying in a recorded 911 call played Tuesday for jurors in Benton County Superior Court.
The now 25-year-old Kennewick woman frantically asked for help during the June 27, 2008, call and told dispatchers that she had just given birth and thought her baby had died.
"My baby's not breathing," she yelled as dispatchers tried to figure out where she was. "Help me. Please help me. Help me. Help me."
She told dispatchers she was near JCPenney at the Columbia Center mall in Kennewick and she was going to go home but she couldn't drive.
After repeatedly yelling that she needed help, the call ended.
She was found a short time later in the WorkSource parking lot on Metaline Street in the back of her car with her pants off and covered in blood. She and the newborn were rushed to Kennewick General Hospital, but police soon discovered she hadn't just given birth.
The baby's mother, Araceli Camacho Gomez, 27, of Pasco, then was found dead in Columbia Park in Kennewick. The baby, Salvador, survived but has severe disabilities and is being raised by his father and two older siblings.
Sisouvanh Synhavong is on trial for aggravated first-degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Defense attorneys say a childhood of physical, mental and sexual abuse left their client living in a fantasy world and unable to know the difference between right and wrong.
On Tuesday, the second day of the defense's case, attorneys played two recorded 911 calls that Sisouvanh Synhavong made in 2008 and had Judge Robert Swisher read into evidence a report from 2002 when she was taken to the Crisis Response Unit.
A Laotian interpreter was in court Tuesday morning and interpreted for defense attorneys before court started, but no witnesses who speak Laotian were called to the stand. Defense attorney Dan Arnold indicated Monday that he was considering calling Sisouvanh Synhavong's mother to testify.
A psychologist who evaluated Sisouvanh Synhavong's sanity is to take the stand today and is expected to be the defense's last witness.
The first of two 911 calls that jurors heard Tuesday was made by Sisouvanh Synhavong on May 20, 2008, and discovered in early July of that same year. It was difficult, at times, to understand the recording, but she apparently called 911 after getting into an argument with her mother.
She is heard asking for information about a shelter and said she walked to Kennewick High School but she didn't want to go home because of the argument.
She said she would wait in front of the school for a Kennewick officer to meet or call her. She also said she was pregnant and was due June 18.
The 2002 report that Swisher read to the jury was from Feb. 4-5 of that year, when Sisouvanh Synhavong had been taken to the Crisis Response Unit in Kennewick after a note was discovered in which she talked about hanging herself.
She was a student at Southridge High School at the time, and the note was written in school. According to the report, the crisis counselor said Sisouvanh Synhavong minimized suicidal thinking but admitted to feeling despondent about a female classmate who had died in a recent crash.
Sisouvanh Synhavong also apparently said she had insomnia for about a month, which could have started around the same time her infant brother was born. She told the counselor the note was "just a joke," but agreed to meet the counselor again the next day.
The counselor noted Sisouvanh Synhavong may have an adjustment disorder.
During the second visit, the counselor reported Sisouvanh Synhavong said she was "feeling better" and was given a brief lecture and hug after telling her mother about the note.
She said she planned to attend Running Start classes at Columbia Basin College because she wanted to "make my parents happy with me."
w Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org