Crime

Prosser homicide remains unsolved

Six weeks after Prosser police began investigating the city's first homicide since 1995, the case remains unsolved.

But detectives continue to chase leads to find whoever shot and killed River Saenz, Officer Mark Cole said.

"We're still working hard on it," he said. "We want to get this thing closed, too."

Saenz, 21, was found dead around 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 by someone who was walking along an irrigation access road near the Prosser High School baseball field. The lifelong Prosser resident had been killed by a gunshot to his head, and the coroner estimated he was shot about 90 minutes before he was found.

Saenz's death shocked the small town that has had only two homicides inside city limits since 1909. There are lotsof rumors or speculation linking Saenz's death to drugs or gangs, but Cole said it wouldn't be fair to the family to comment on those rumors until the case is solved.

Prosser police, who are being assisted by Benton County sheriff's detectives, are keeping in regular contact with Saenz's family -- they met with them Monday -- to provide updates on the investigation, Cole said.

"We have a good working relationship with the family. The family knows we're doing our job," he said. "They know we're working hard. It's not like CSI and you solve it in an hour like everybody thinks.

"These are detailed cases and you gotta do them right. ... If you make one mistake, you can lose the case," he added. "I'd rather take it slow and do it right than do it fast and make a mistake."

Saenz's death was the seventh -- and last -- homicide in Benton and Franklin counties in 2010. (Vehicular homicide cases aren't included in that number.)

One other homicide from last year remains unsolved -- the shooting death of Juan Antonio Segoviano-Garcia, who was found in a Benton County orchard -- while two suspects still are being sought in the Feb. 7 fatal stabbing of Froilan Godines in Pasco.

-- Godines, 41, of Kennewick, was a bouncer at the El Patron Night Club when he was attacked by two men outside the club allegedly because of an earlier altercation inside.

Pasco police have named Adan Virgen-Ponce, 29, and his nephew, Concepcion S. Virgen, 21, as suspects and both were charged with second-degree murder. Both are suspected of fleeing the area -- and possibly the country -- and are wanted on $1 million warrants.

-- Segoviano-Garcia's badly burned remains were found July 27 after firefighters responded to a reported fire in an orchard belonging to Washington Fruit and Produce on East 528 PRSE in Finely. The 30-year-old -- an irrigator who camped in the orchard -- was killed by a shotgun blast to his chest.

Sheriff's detectives interviewed employees at the orchard and sought information from anyone who knew Segoviano-Garcia, but the case has gone cold and no suspects have been identified.

The other four homicides in 2010, which includes the death of an unborn baby, were handled by either the Pasco Police Department or the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

-- Shenay Greenough, 19, of Pasco, was allegedly strangled by her ex-boyfriend May 8, and her almost full-term baby, Kyana Shenay, also died. Greenough's body was found underneath a Pasco home belonging to her ex-boyfriend's father. Kurtis Robert Chapman, 23, of Pasco is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

-- Griselda Ocampo Meza, 21, of Pasco, was stabbed to death in her Pasco apartment on May 24. Gregorio Luna Luna, 31, Ocampo Meza's former live-in boyfriend and thefather of her son, is charged with first-degree murder.

-- Jeffrey Alexander, 64, of Prosser, died Nov. 5, eight days after reportedly being beaten following a night a drinking with some friends in rural Prosser. Alexander was found unresponsive on the morning of Oct. 29 and an autopsy showed he died from a blow to his skull that caused a blood clot. Clifford F. Flett, 51, of Prosser, is accused of assaulting Alexander during a fight and has a Feb. 7 trial set for first-degree manslaughter.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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