Police spent three hours Thursday morning scouring the brush along Interstate 82 for evidence related to the Christmas Eve fatal shooting of a young mother in Kennewick.
As officers were searching, Francisco Javier Munoz Quintero, 20, was in Benton County Superior Court pleading not guilty to second-degree murder with aggravating circumstances.
He was ordered by Judge Alex Ekstrom to have no contact with his 22-month-old child, who was in the car on Christmas Eve when her mother was shot.
Munoz Quintero called his sister late Christmas Eve and told her he had shot and killed Luisa Garcia Farias, 21, of Pasco, according to court documents.
The suspect drove to Mabton after the shooting, said Mike Blatman, spokesman for Kennewick police.
I-82 search turns up no new evidence
Kennewick police, assisted by Richland and Pasco police, searched about 14 miles of I-82 on Thursday, according to police reports. No additional evidence was found.
The search began at 7:15 a.m. and was wrapped up by about 10:15 a.m. A passerby told the Tri-City Herald she saw eight patrol vehicles along the freeway and numerous officers walking carefully through the brush between Benton City and Prosser.
Munoz Quintero, 20, remains in custody on $500,000 bail after his most recent court appearance.
Garcia Farias was reportedly pushed from a car near Hood Avenue and Tweedt Street on Dec. 24 after she was shot. She was taken to Trios Southridge Hospital where was pronounced dead just after midnight.
Trial set for Feb. 16
Munoz Quintero turned himself into police the evening of Christmas Day. He told police he and his girlfriend were arguing in her car when he pulled out a 9mm firearm and pointed it at her, according to court documents. They struggled and the gun went off. The couple’s child was in the backseat at the time.
Documents cited aggravating circumstances of a child being present and the foreseeable destructive impact on a person other than the victim. If Munoz Quintero is found guilty, his sentence could be lengthened because a firearm was involved.
A trial date of Feb. 16 has been set. Munoz Quintero will return to court Jan. 21.