Suspect in ’08 Yakima shooting pleads guilty to manslaughter

A 24-year-old man accused of fleeing the country after killing his girlfriend in 2008 pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of first-degree manslaughter.

Jose Antonio Ayala, who was arrested last year in Mexico and extradited to Yakima, agreed to a recommended sentence of 13 1/2 years in prison for causing the death of 18-year-old Yesenia Haro.

Haro, then a senior at Davis High School, was found dead Oct. 22, 2008, in her apartment on South Eighth Street. She died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Ayala, then 19, had been dating Haro and was immediately identified as a suspect. Haro’s mother told police the couple argued the night before.

Ayala avoided capture for roughly three and a half years before being arrested by U.S. Marshals last year and extradited to Yakima.

According to a written statement in his plea deal, Ayala admitted shooting Haro, but said it was an accident and that he “was attempting to clear a handgun.”

Per the terms of the deal, Ayala agreed to a sentence at the top of the range for first-degree manslaughter, 8 1/2 years, plus a five-year firearms sentence enhancement.

Deputy prosecutor Steve Jackson said the plea deal avoided the expense of a trial, and noted the recommended sentence of 13 1/2 years was comparable to a murder sentence in the case.

Because Ayala had no criminal record, he would have qualified for a sentence within the range of 123-220 months for second-degree murder, the original charge in the case.

“It’s one of those cases where the only two people who were there were the defendant and the victim,” Jackson said. “We wanted to ensure a conviction. It’s just a sad story.”

Ayala is expected to be deported back to Mexico after he finishes his prison sentence, Jackson added.

Sentencing is set for July 26.

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