The trial got under way Monday for a Umatilla man suspected of helping kill a man and two women whose bodies were found 15 months ago in a Benton County corn field.
Francisco J. Resendez Miranda, 24, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
On Monday, 110 people responded to the courthouse as potential jurors.
Judge Bruce Spanner gave a brief synopsis of the case, telling the packed courtroom that Resendez Miranda is accused in the deaths of Abigail Torres-Renteria, Victoria Torres and David Perez-Saucedo.
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He also told the group that Torres-Renteria, 23, was pregnant when she was killed.
Under Washington state law, a murder charge cannot be filed for an unborn baby.
Resendez Miranda’s case includes the aggravating circumstances that Torres-Renteria was almost nine months pregnant, and that the crime involved several victims.
Torres-Renteria, Torres, 19, and Perez-Saucedo, 22, all of Pasco, were shot to death.
They were found Aug. 9, 2014, by a worker with Easterday Farms in a field a couple of miles southeast of the intersection of Nine Canyon and Coffin roads south of Finley.
Resendez Miranda was arrested the following day in Oregon on suspicion of kidnapping.
Court documents show the slayings might have been in retaliation for a break-in at Resendez Miranda’s apartment. The three victims, along with a fourth person, had gone to Umatilla, possibly to a party, late Aug. 8, 2014.
Before the prospective jurors filled out a lengthy questionnaire Monday, Spanner explained that the court needs a 3 1/2 -week commitment, which includes the three days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“That’s to give (attorneys) the complete opportunity to present all of the evidence, and for the jury to complete its deliberations,” he said.
Prosecutors have 59 names on their witness list, with the defense planning to call the same people in their case if needed.
Later Monday, the attorneys reviewed the submitted questionnaires and agreed to excuse 28 people from the jury pool. They will individually question 26 people Tuesday morning about certain responses on their questionnaire.
The court hopes to seat a 12-member panel with two alternatives on Tuesday afternoon.
Opening statements are scheduled to be given the morning of Nov. 4, followed by prosecution witnesses.