Crime

Documents released in murder of pregnant Pasco woman

Two days before allegedly killing a pregnant Pasco woman to steal the woman's baby, Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong told her MySpace friends that her mood was "thankful."

Sisouvanh Synhavong, whose username is Azn Princess, opened her online profile with the quote: "If you were me ... well you aren't so it doesn't matter, haha for you."

The Kennewick woman had been telling people, including her husband, that she was pregnant and expecting the couple's first child. She reportedly had been meeting with a midwife.

Then on June 27, 2008, Keun Synhavong got word that his wife had given birth and was at Kennewick General Hospital. However, hospital staff quickly determined that Sisouvanh Synhavong had not given birth or even recently been pregnant and that the little boy fighting for his life did not belong to her.

Meanwhile, the body of Araceli Camacho Gomez was found later that night in Columbia Park. The 27-year-old mother's unborn son had been cut from her womb.

Those details were confirmed in a revised version of court documents released Tuesday by Judge Robert Swisher.

The Herald has been fighting to open the documents to public view.

Heavily blacked-out copies of search warrants in the crime were first released last October by Swisher. He then ruled that redacting all personal information relating to Sisouvanh Synhavong or her family and any statements she made to investigators was necessary as the defense prepared for a potential death penalty case.

But Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller since has decided not to pursue the death penalty in the aggravated first-degree murder case.

Swisher said Miller's decision made it necessary to re-address the sealing order since the previous arguments hinged on it being a capital case. If convicted of killing Gomez, Sisouvanh Synhavong, 24, still would spend the rest of her life behind bars, the judge noted.

Herald Executive Editor Ken Robertson told the court that it must balance serving the public and the defendant's right to a fair trial. Robertson said the newspaper has an ongoing objection to the sealing, and asked Swisher to review the redacted version and "consider if any more of that can be released."

Swisher again determined that defense attorney Dan Arnold "made a showing of the likelihood of jeopardy under the Sixth Amendment and state constitution" if the four documents are released in their entirety. Given extensive pretrial publicity in the case, it may be difficult for attorneys to find a jury if too many details are released, he said.

Swisher ruled a limited redaction remains the best option to prevent that. He had already prepared his own revisions and asked the attorneys to read the documents during a recess.

The attorneys approved the revision except for one paragraph that Swisher agreed to black out.

Swisher said the documents and 911 tapes will be released once a jury is seated.

Sisouvanh Synhavong sat at the table with Arnold. She giggled during the hearing and occasionally put her head on Arnold's shoulder or rested her head on the table.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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