Crime

Col. Park murder trial set to start Sept. 14

KENNEWICK — A new trial date has been set now that a Kennewick woman accused of killing a pregnant mother and cutting the baby from her womb has been found competent to stand trial.

Phiengchai Sisouvahn Synhavong, 25, will face a Sept. 14 trial on one count of aggravated first-degree murder for the 2008 death of Araceli Camacho Gomez.

Benton County Judge Robert Swisher ruled last week that Sisouvahn Synhavong was competent to stand trial, but on Tuesday her defense attorney continued to question that decision.

It took a nearly 45-minute hearing to set the new trial date after Sisouvahn Synhavong appeared to change her mind about whether she would waive her right to have a trial within 60 days.

Dan Arnold, one of Sisouvahn Synhavong's two attorneys, told Swisher that the defense would not be ready for trial by June 14, which is the latest date a trial could start to stay within that 60-day guideline.

He said his client agreed to move it out to September and signed the waiver, but when the judge asked Sisouvahn Synhavong if that was correct, she shook her head no.

Arnold told his client to answer "yes," but then Prosecutor Andy Miller expressed concerns about the conflicting answer.

"I'm in an awkward position," Arnold said. "The court has found her competent but I don't think she is."

After a brief recess, Sisouvahn Synhavong said she wanted her trial in October "so my dad can be here."

Her father, who was in court Tuesday, apparently is a commercial fisherman in Alaska during the summer.

Miller didn't object to an October trial date, but did say that Camacho Gomez's husband, Juan Campos Gomez, has expressed frustration about getting the case over.

Swisher decided to set the trial for Sept. 14, but when he again asked Sisouvahn Synhavong if she was agreeing to that trial date, she repeatedly shook her head no.

The judge set a trial date for June 7, which is within the 60-day window, and set dates in May for pretrial hearings, but Arnold said none of them would work for the defense team.

Arnold then made one more attempt to have Sisouvahn Synhavong agree on the record to a September trial, and when asked by Swisher if that's what she wanted, she replied "yes, sir."

She'll be in court again next week so both sides can check their schedules and get dates set for the pretrial hearings.

If Sisouvahn Synhavong is convicted of fatally stabbing Camacho Gomez, 27, of Pasco, she will spend the rest of her life in prison.

Camacho Gomez was found dead early June 28, 2008, in Kennewick's Columbia Park. Sisouvahn Synhavong is accused of cutting Camacho Gomez's nearly full-term son from the womb and trying to claim him as her own.

The baby, Salvador, survived and is being cared for by his father and two older siblings.

-- Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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