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More evidence reported in Pasco murder case

PASCO -- Pasco detectives learned Tuesday that a piece of clothing taken from two brothers after their arrests in Idaho for murder two years ago never was turned over, prosecutors told a judge.

Special prosecutor Steve Lowe said he does not plan to use the evidence in the upcoming trial of Ramon Garcia-Morales, but needed to notify the judge and defense attorneys about the item because it is "blatant discovery."

It's not clear just what the evidence is -- "a shirtcoat, an overcoat, something" -- or which brother it even belongs to, Lowe said, but it should have been given to investigators when they traveled to Elmore County, Idaho, in December 2008 after the arrests of Garcia-Morales and his younger brother, Jose.

The brothers are charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. They are accused of shooting Alfredo Garcia and his wife, Maria Ramirez de Garcia, over what the brothers believed was money owed for being shut out of field work.

The couple were shot Dec. 10, 2008. Garcia died at the scene, while Ramirez de Garcia survived her injuries, but even after lengthy rehabilitation must use a wheelchair.

About 16 hours after the shooting, the brothers were arrested at a gas station in Mountain Home, which is east of Boise.

Lowe, the former elected Franklin County prosecutor, has been appointed to handle Ramon Garcia-Morales' case along with Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Harris, since new Prosecutor Shawn Sant has a conflict of interest because he used to represent Jose Garcia-Morales.

Lowe said he got a call from Pasco Detective William Parramore just an hour before Tuesday's hearing.

Parramore, the lead investigator on the case, told Lowe he had just heard from a new sheriff's detective in Elmore County. The detective informed Parramore that while cleaning out the cubicle of the former sheriff's detective involved in the Garcia-Morales brothers' arrests, he discovered evidence that never was turned over to Pasco, Lowe said.

Defense lawyer Kevin Holt said the evidence could be key in Ramon Garcia-Morales' case.

Holt said he and co-counsel Karla Kane are meeting this week with Jose Garcia-Morales' investigator to "piece together what happened" and determine how many guns were used, who the shooter was and whether the other was a voluntary participant.

"Our client has been nonresponsive and will not talk about the events leading up to the shooting, during the shooting or after the shooting," Holt said.

Ramon Garcia-Morales, 30, silently sat with his head bowed during Tuesday's hearing. He has been found mentally competent to stand trial.

Jose Garcia-Morales, 27, is set for a competency hearing later this month.

Holt said a defense expert for Jose Garcia-Morales is looking at blood spatter at the scene to see if it pinpoints the shooter. The newly discovered evidence, particularly if it was worn at the time of the shooting, could be significant in showing what happened inside the Manzanita Lane home, he said.

Court documents say Garcia, 42, was responsible for delegating work opportunities to workers, and the Garcia-Morales brothers believed he had deprived them of a job. They blamed him for financial problems Ramon Garcia-Morales had experienced.

Ramon and Jose allegedly were both carrying guns when they went to the Garcia home. At some point, Ramon pulled out his 9 mm and fired until it was empty, then grabbed Jose's .45-caliber pistol and continued shooting, documents said.

Three daughters were home. They pleaded for their lives and were saved when the suspects fled, fearing police were coming.

Court documents said the brothers threw the guns into a field along Highway 12 near Walla Walla.

Holt -- who last month finished a seven-week murder trial in Spokane County -- told the court Tuesday that he needs an additional two weeks to interview people on the state's lengthy witness list. The trial had been set for Feb. 2.

He also asked for, and was granted, a subpoena to find out who Ramon Garcia-Morales has had contact with inside the Franklin County jail and the inmates who have been housed around him, and to get a copy of his medical information.

Defense attorneys plan to present a defense of diminished capacity and self-defense, which allows them to explore Garcia-Morales' "state of mind at the time and around the time of the event, so jurors can understand his thought process," Holt said.

He said he understands his client's "hygiene has deteriorated," and he wants to know from other inmates who see Garcia-Morales on a daily basis if he truly is suffering or appears to be faking it.

Lowe said the state has been ready for some time to go to trial and, for the sake of the victims, would object to any lengthy delays. He said the trial shouldn't last more than two weeks with jury selection.

Judge Vic VanderSchoor granted the defense request to postpone the trial to Feb. 16.

"I think it's appropriate," he said. "I hate to continue the trial date more, since we've been going since December 2008."

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