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Coroner's inquests in Benton, Franklin counties since 1990

Coroner's inquests often are called a rare fact-finding proceeding. Since 1990, there have been seven coroner's inquests called in Benton and Franklin counties.

2008: A Benton County coroner's jury ruled that Jonathan Gannon was justified when he fatally shot a man at his Kennewick apartment. Michael P. Salazar, 27, of Kennewick, died Oct. 17 from a shotgun wound to the head. Jurors said Gannon, 25, acted in self defense.

2006: A Franklin County inquest was called in the March 19 death of a newborn in Mesa. Virginia Ortiz-Espana, 26, said she didn't know she was pregnant and threw her baby in the trash when it was stillborn. Jurors ruled the baby's death was a homicide, and Ortiz-Espana was charged with second-degree murder. She reportedly returned to Mexico before the inquest. There is an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

1996: Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel called an inquest to help determine how Lance Chism died in July 1995. Chism, 33, was shot once in the chest inside his Pasco home. His wife, Kim, was cleared by the special jury, which determined Lance Chism accidentally shot himself.

1996: After Darin Haney, 30, of Kennewick, was stabbed to death by his girlfriend during an argument in November 1995, Benton County Coroner Floyd Johnson called an inquest. The special jury determined Michelle Corn, 24, of Kennewick, wasn't justified in her actions, but they also said they believed the slaying would be excusable under state law. Corn was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, but the verdict was overturned. She later pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and got a one-year sentence.

1995: Benton County Coroner Floyd Johnson called an inquest into the Sept. 5 death of Pamela Schultz-Foster, 42. She died after falling down some stairs in her rural Kennewick home. The inquest jury determined Schultz-Foster's death was not an accident. Her husband, William Foster, was later convicted of first-degree manslaughter and served a five-year prison term.

1993: An inquest was called to determine if Rodger L. Cassel, 21, of Benton City, acted in self defense when he fatally shot his friend, Jeff Baumgartner, 22, during a confrontation after a night of drinking. The inquest jury determined the Aug. 14 shooting was unjustified and prosecutors charged Cassel with manslaughter. Cassel was later acquitted by a jury, who said he acted in self-defense.

1992: Franklin County Prosecutor/Coroner Dennis DeFelice called a coroner's inquest to determine if the August 1991 shooting death of Sam Gilmore Jr. was justified. Terro L. Bell, 23, was charged with first-degree manslaughter for shooting the 26-year-old in the head. The jury ruled he acted in self defense and charges were dismissed.

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