Jurors who believe Gregorio Luna Luna is guilty of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend will have an option if they don't feel he planned to kill her.
Prosecutors, in wrapping up the first week of the Franklin County trial, amended the charges Friday to include second-degree murder.
That's in addition to the existing charge of aggravated first-degree murder, which requires the finding that Luna Luna had "premeditated intent" when he confronted Griselda Ocampo Meza in her Pasco apartment.
Though the new count does not come with an automatic life sentence, prosecutors made sure to include aggravating circumstances with it so they can still ask for a longer prison term if Luna Luna is convicted.
Luna Luna, 32, did not enter a plea in Franklin County Superior Court to the new charges. His lawyers said they will address it on Tuesday, when the murder trial reconvenes after Monday's holiday.
Ocampo Meza, 21, died May 24, 2010, after being stabbed once in the chest.
Luna Luna is accused of barging into the North 22nd Avenue home about 4 a.m. and attacking the mother of his 5-year-old son.
Prosecutors say Luna Luna had a history of abusing Ocampo Meza over their seven-year dating relationship, and waited that morning until her roommates left for work to force them to give him a front door key.
Ocampo Meza stopped dating Luna Luna at the start of 2010, and he felt if he couldn't have her then no one else should, Special Prosecutor Andy Miller explained this week to jurors.
However, Luna Luna's lawyers say he had hopes and dreams of raising his family and became depressed when he no longer could see his son after being arrested for harassment. So four months later, back in the Tri-Cities, he went to his former girlfriend's home with one goal -- getting his son and returning to their native Mexico, where the boy could grow up in Luna Luna's own culture, said defense attorney Karla Kane.
Luna Luna was deported May 1, 2010, but quickly recrossed the border. He was staying with a friend in Snohomish when he reportedly stole the man's car May 23 and drove across the state.
Luna Luna confronted Ocampo Meza that night at Roberto's Tacos in Kennewick, then allegedly broke into her home hours later.
Ocampo Meza had been warned that night of her ex's plans to kill her, so the scared woman asked her new boyfriend to stay over. The two were sleeping in the two-story apartment's living room when they were surprised by Luna Luna.
Ocampo Meza's roommates, brothers Sergio and Santiago Perez-Ramos, testified Friday about their run-in with Luna Luna that morning outside the apartment. The men were heading to work when he approached them.
Sergio Perez-Ramos, who was by his truck in the parking lot, said Luna Luna demanded he hand over the house keys. Luna Luna ultimately grabbed them out of the man's pocket, then ran to the door and went inside.
Ocampo Meza recently asked to have the locks changed and chain locks added for extra security. The complex's management office had fulfilled both requests.
Perez-Ramos testified that he knew Ocampo Meza no longer was dating Luna Luna. So when he heard screaming coming from the house, and saw her new boyfriend Jairo Flores-Flores run out with the boy, he tried to call 911 but his cellphone wasn't working.
Flores-Flores was pounding on the front door of a neighbor's apartment when Luna Luna started fighting him, trying to get his son. The resident finally opened the door and broke up the fight, but Luna Luna took off and jumped a fence before they could find out what happened, Perez-Ramos said.
Perez-Ramos returned to his apartment and found Ocampo Meza on the kitchen floor with a knife next to her, he testified. He confirmed that a picture taken by police was how he saw her.
Santiago Perez-Ramos said that as they left that morning, he stayed by the closed door while his older brother went to the truck to get some shoes. He watched as the man he later learned was Luna Luna "put his hands in my brother's pockets" then, fearing he was carrying a weapon, stood aside as the man came up to the door.
Perez-Ramos testified that he heard Ocampo Meza inside "asking for help."
Luna Luna was arrested later that day while hiding in the bathroom of an abandoned Pasco home. Since then, he has been held in the Franklin County jail in lieu of $5 million bail.
Their son reportedly is living with extended family in Mexico.
The aggravating murder charge includes allegations that Luna Luna engaged in a pattern of domestic violence with the victim during a five-year period, and that two separate court orders were in place at the time of the slaying telling him to stay away from the victim and his son.
If Luna Luna is convicted of aggravated first-degree murder, the only sentencing option is life in prison without the possibility of release.
Earlier this week, after Luna Luna's lawyers said they would be withdrawing their self-defense argument, Miller asked if they would be seeking second-degree murder as an alternative for the jurors to consider. The defense attorneys have not yet made that request.
So on Friday, Miller boosted his efforts to lock up Luna Luna for a long time if the jury returns a guilty verdict, no matter on which charge.
Miller, the Benton County prosecutor, is handling the case along with Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra because of a conflict with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
Should the jury find there is no evidence that Luna Luna planned to kill his ex, the panel can choose the "lesser included crime" of second-degree murder.
Miller filed that charge to include aggravating factors that the slaying involved an ongoing pattern of domestic violence and occurred within the sight and sound of the victim's child. Those circumstances would allow Miller to ask Judge Robert Swisher to hand down a harsher penalty with a second-degree murder conviction.
The trial is expected to last up to two more weeks.