The Franklin County murder cases of three teens killed just months apart, and a fatal shooting by police that drew international attention headlined the homicides in the Mid-Columbia in 2015.
Coroners classified the deaths of 13 people as homicides in Benton and Franklin counties this year. Two of the deaths resulted from Tri-City police shootings.
The number of homicides in 2015 dropped slightly from the year before, when 15 deaths were declared homicides — the highest number in five years.
“It shocks me,” said Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel. “I didn’t realize we had that many.”
The victims killed this year ranged in age from 3 to 64. They included an 18-year-old mother and her son found burned in a car, a Pasco father of two killed in a hit-and-run and a 12-year-old boy who died in an early-morning rollover crash.
Benton County, unlike Franklin County, did not include in its homicide totals the victims killed in collisions investigated criminally. Fatal hit-and-runs also were not counted.
A pair of Kennewick men — Michael P. Robinson, 58, and Mark Brown Sr., 49 — died after being struck by vehicles in Kennewick. Robinson was hit Feb. 22 while walking on Columbia Center Boulevard. Brown fell out of his motorized chair Aug. 26 and was struck at the intersection of Washington Street and Eighth Avenue.
Both cases remain unsolved.
The last homicide of the year was the death of Luisa Garcia Farias of Pasco on Christmas Eve. The 21-year-old mother was shot during an argument in a car in Kennewick and left to die by the side of the road. Francisco J. Munoz-Quintero, 20, is being held on suspicion of murder.
The first shooting death of the year happened when Juan Carlos Melgoza, 42, was shot Feb. 4 outside the busy Fiesta Foods grocery store in Pasco.
Documented gang member Chris Pedroza-DeSantiago, 20, is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and illegal gun possession in connection with his death. Fellow gang member Abraham Barajas, 16, also is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The shooting, according to court documents, happened after a dispute over Melgoza wearing rival gang colors.
In July, Maria G. Cruiz-Calvillo, 18, and her son, Luis F. Lopez-Cruz, 3, were discovered shot inside a burned-out car in a ravine in rural Franklin County. Cruiz-Calvillo’s ex-boyfriend, Prudencio Juan Fragos-Ramirez, 25, of Connell, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Nearly two months later, Eduardo Angon Del Villar, 19, was shot to death during a dispute in the parking lot of a Pasco night club. Santos Flores-Alcaide, 28, and Enrique Alcaide, 22, are charged with first-degree murder.
On Oct. 7, George Garcia Thacker, 18, was then shot five times near the cable bridge in Pasco. Brothers Nathan Quintero, 23, and Jaden Quintero, 17, are charged with first-degree murder.
And earlier this month, a murder-suicide in the Panoramic Heights neighborhood of Kennewick left a family dead. Police say Doug Brown, 64, shot his disabled daughter, Carmina, 27, and wife, Elena, 64, before turning the shotgun on himself.
No motive has been identified in the case.
Police shootings caused the deaths of two men, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, and Roark K. Cook, 36.
Zambrano-Montes was shot by three Pasco officers Feb. 10 after throwing rocks at the intersection of Lewis Street. The shooting, captured on video, caused outrage across the nation. The three officers were ultimately cleared by the Franklin County prosecutor and an internal police investigation of any wrongdoing. However, Blasdel still plans an independent inquest Feb. 23.
Cook was shot at by a Benton County deputy and Richland police officer during a standoff with police sparked by a domestic violence incident.
Several collision in Benton and Franklin counties resulting in criminal charges led to the deaths of four people this year.
Martin Sanchez-Andrade, 50, became the first homicide of 2015 when he was killed New Year’s Eve when a drunken driver going the wrong way crashed head-on into the vehicle he was driving. Clifford T. Barker was recently sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in the case.
Jason E. Smith, 36, was killed April 2 when a gang member fleeing from police in a pickup torpedoed into Smith’s car at an estimated 85 mph.
Smith, a local business owner, had just dropped his youngest daughter off at gymnastics and was on his way to the post office.
Miguel Paniagua, 24, was sentenced in November to 8 1/2 years in prison for vehicular homicide, unlawful gun possession, attempting to elude police and failing to stop at a fatal crash.
Two other men have been charged with vehicular homicide this year for the deaths of Josue Cruz, 12, and Fawn White, 34.
Cruz was killed early June 16 on Road 170 near Ringold when a van hit a car and rolled. Celerino Leon Martinez, 48, is charged with vehicular manslaughter for allegedly causing the death by driving recklessly.
White died Oct. 23 when the car she was riding in ran a stop light at Bowles Road and Highway 397 in Finley. Ty A. Moore, 31, was driving the vehicle and was allegedly drunk. The Benton City man is charged with vehicular homicide.