Crime

Lowe to prosecute murder suspect

Former Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe will continue to prosecute one of two brothers accused of gunning down a Pasco couple two years ago.

Superior Court Judge Vic VanderSchoor approved Tuesday having Lowe and Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller prosecute the case against Ramon Garcia-Morales.

Garcia-Morales, 30, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the December 2008 shooting of Alfredo Garcia and Maria Ramirez de Garcia.

Alfredo Garcia, 42, died. His wife was critically injured and must use a wheelchair.

Garcia-Morales and his younger brother, Jose Garcia-Morales, 27, are accused of going to the couple's Manzanita Lane home to confront Garcia out of "financial desperation" because he felt shut out of field work and was owed money.

Prosecutor Shawn Sant, who defeated Lowe in the Nov. 2 election, represented Jose Garcia-Morales as a defense attorney, so he can't handle the prosecution of either brother.

Lowe told the court he and Miller planned to meet about the case later Tuesday.

Garcia-Morales did not talk with the interpreter or his attorney during the court hearing.

His attorneys previously have tried to get the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem for Garcia-Morales because he stopped talking to them and couldn't help them prepare for his trial.

But VanderSchoor denied the request in October, noting that mental healthofficials previously have found him competent to stand trial.

Garcia-Morales' trial was scheduled for today, but VanderSchoor postponed the trial until Feb. 2.

Lowe said the prosecution is almost ready. Defense attorneys Kevin Holt and Karla Kane have yet to interview the three daughters of Alfredo Garcia and Maria Ramirez de Garcia who saw the shooting.

Sant also plans to ask the court to appoint Lowe and Miller to serve as the prosecutors for the case against Jose Garcia-Morales and the first-degree murder case against Gregorio Luna Luna.

Sant was one of the defense attorneys for Luna Luna, 31, who is accused of fatally stabbing his son's mother, Griselda Ocampo Meza, 21, in May.

The court is scheduled to consider the appointment to the Luna Luna case today and the Jose Garcia-Morales case Jan. 12.

Sant said earlier that he plans to work with County Administrator Fred Bowen to negotiate a contract with Lowe to prosecute the cases.

Miller said Benton County won't be reimbursed for the time he and his office spend on the case.

It is typical to have two prosecutors assigned to serious cases, Miller said.

It makes sense for Lowe to continue on the case because he has built a relationship with the family, he said. Miller said his office will be able to provide the support the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office normally would.

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