Crime

Witnesses at murder trial say other pregnant women contacted

The day before meeting a pregnant Pasco woman and offering her baby clothes in an alleged ruse to take the baby, Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong offered baby clothes to another pregnant woman, witnesses testified Friday.

Sisouvanh Synhavong, 25, of Kennewick, learned teller Clarissa Flores at the Moneytree store in Pasco was pregnant and called to arrange for her to go outside and get the clothes later that day, Flores testified during the fifth day of Sisouvanh Synhavong's murder trial.

"She called me on the phone at work and said she had some baby clothes, she was a customer and she had some baby clothes she wanted to give me," Flores said of their June 26, 2008, conversation. "I told her I was at work and she could drop it off. She told me she would pull to the front and I should be waiting."

Flores said her water broke the next day and she gave birth to her son June 28. Sisouvanh Synhavong never dropped off any baby clothes.

Sisouvanh Synhavong is charged in Benton County Superior Court with aggravated first-degree murder for repeatedly stabbing Araceli Camacho Gomez, 27, and cutting her unborn baby from her womb June 27, 2008.

Camacho Gomez's body was found in Columbia Park in Kennewick after Sisouvanh Synhavong called 911 claiming she had just given birth and the baby wasn't breathing. Doctors at Kennewick General Hospital determined the baby wasn't hers.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Defense attorneys say she was living in a fantasy world and didn't know right from wrong. They are asking jurors that if they unanimously agree Sisouvanh Synhavong is responsible for the murder, that they find she was insane when she committed the crime.

If convicted, she will spend the rest of her life in prison. Prosecutor Andy Miller already has decided not to seek the death penalty. If acquitted by reason of insanity, she would be turned over to the state Department of Social and Health Services to determine how long she should be committed to a state mental hospital.

On Friday, the 14-member jury, which includes two alternates, heard the last of more than six hours of recorded interrogations Kennewick police conducted just hours after her arrest.

Sisouvanh Synhavong sat hunched over between her two attorneys and appeared at times to be covering her ears while jurors listened to detectives trying to get Sisouvanh Synhavong to tell them what happened.

"I was driving around, going to McDonald's, not thinking about hunting anyone down," she is heard telling investigators. "But I saw Araceli and what attracted me to her was her chunky baby girl, who was very cute."

She said she talked to Camacho Gomez about when she was due and offered her baby clothes. Sisouvanh Synhavong said repeatedly said she didn't plan to hurt Camacho Gomez, but maybe was going to try to make a deal with her to keep the baby.

"The evidence is overwhelming (and) is going to look like I planned it that day, but it didn't happen like that," Sisouvanh Synhavong said.

At the end of the recorded interrogation, prosecutors wound down their case by calling 11 women to testify.

Flores, the Moneytree teller, said Sisouvanh Synhavong told her she was pregnant and two weeks overdue and doctors were going to induce her soon.

Flores said Sisouvanh Synhavong didn't appear pregnant and told co-workers "it was weird" that the woman said she was pregnant but didn't appear to be.

Two of Flores' co-workers also testified that they overheard conversations in which Sisouvanh Synhavong talked to Flores about being pregnant and offering baby clothes.

Another woman, Rosalie Vonghalath, said her boyfriend knew Sisouvanh Synhavong, and when Sisouvanh Synhavong found out Vonghalath was pregnant, she asked to interview her for a class.

Vonghalath said she was due May 18, 2008, and Sisouvanh Synhavong said she was due June 18. She said she wanted to talk to Vonghalath about her pregnancy experience and promised a year's worth of diapers if she did the interview.

Vonghalath ended up having her baby early, on May 1, and said Sisouvanh Synhavong called her May 8, not knowing she already had the baby, and asked how the pregnancy was going.

"After you told her you already had the baby, shedidn't follow up with you and give you diapers?" Miller asked.

"No," Vonghalath said.

"Did you hear from her again after May 8?" he continued.

"No," she said.

Another witness, Jennifer Wilson, testified that in November 2007, when she was working as a foster home licenser for the state Department of Social and Health Services, she met Sisouvanh Synhavong at a foster parent orientation.

Sisouvanh Synhavong went through the two-hour orientation, which included information that foster homes typically are needed more often for kids between 6 and their teens.

Afterward, Sisouvanh Synhavong asked some questions, Wilson said.

"She said she was interested in primarily adoption and what the likelihood would be to adopt a baby that was of Asian ethnicity," Wilson said. "I told her the likeliness of receiving just a baby alone would be very low, but receiving an Asian baby would probably be nonexistent."

Testimony continues Monday, when Miller said that he intends to rest his case but may recall two Kennewick police detectives to provide additional information.

The trial is expected to last through next week while the defense presents its case.

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