Sisouvanh Synhavong gets life sentence for Col. Park murder

KENNEWICK — Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong won't be put to death for the gruesome slaying of a pregnant Pasco woman, but her life will end in prison.

Benton County Judge Robert Swisher on Wednesday gave the Kennewick woman the only sentence he could after a jury convicted her last month of aggravated first-degree murder.

"There's no joy in this case, no joy in the sentence," Swisher said. "It is in effect a death sentence. You will die in prison."

Sisouvanh Synhavong, 25, didn't say anything during the brief hearing before Swisher sentenced her to life in prison without parole for the June 2008 death of Araceli Camacho Gomez.

It was the only sentence Swisher could give because Prosecutor Andy Miller previously had declined to seek the death penalty.

Miller's decision was based on a number of factors, including Sisouvanh Synhavong's lack of criminal history, that there was a single victim and the desire of the victim's family.

Sisouvanh Synhavong's defense attorneys, Michael Iaria and Dan Arnold, also said little during the hearing because the court had no discretion to give a more lenient sentence.

"There's nothing for anyone to say that changes anything," Iaria said.

Miller told Swisher there was nothing he could add about the impact the murder has had on Camacho Gomez's family that wasn't said during the three-week trial.

Camacho Gomez, 27, met Sisouvanh Synhavong on June 27, 2008, while the Pasco mother was standing at a bus stop with her two children.

Sisouvanh Synhavong, whose family thought she was pregnant and 10 days overdue, made plans later to get Camacho Gomez alone by using a ruse to give her baby clothes. She convinced the pregnant mother to come with her in her car, then pulled off Highway 240 in Kennewick and attacked her.

Camacho Gomez was stabbed 47 times in the back seat of Sisouvanh Synhavong's car, her nearly full-term baby was ripped from her womb and her body was dumped in Columbia Park in Kennewick.

Sisouvanh Synhavong tried to claim the baby as her own after she called 911 for help, saying she had just given birth and her baby wasn't breathing. But emergency room doctors soon determined she was not the baby's mother.

The baby, Salvador, survived and is being raised by his father, Juan Campos Gomez, and his two older siblings.

A jury deliberated less than six hours before rejecting Sisouvanh Synhavong's insanity claims and finding her guilty.

Campos Gomez attended much of the trial, but was not in court for the verdict or sentencing of his wife's killer.

Miller said he thought Campos Gomez was considering speaking at the sentencing hearing, but his absence likely was the result of his grief and the situation being just too difficult.

Judge Swisher acknowledged the case has been long and has touched a lot of lives.

"Not only the victim and victim's family, but it's touched lives throughout the nation," Swisher said. "It got national attention, and it's finally coming to an end."

Sisouvanh Synhavong has 30 days to file a notice of appeal.