Special Reports

Airport not sealed due to lack of descriptions

Police didn't seal off the Tri-City Airport after last week's body shop slayings because they didn't have a good description of the suspects, Pasco Police Chief Don Francis said Monday.

Francis said they had sketchy information immediately after the shooting and the lone survivor, Jesse Rocio, 20, Pasco, was not able that night to give police a positive identification of the two gunmen.

"We really didn't know exactly who we were looking for until the next day," Francis said.

Police interviewed airline employees and examined ticket sales in the wake of the Oct. 13 massacre, which left five men dead and a sixth man wounded at the Medina Body Shop in east Pasco.

However, investigators have been unable to determine if either suspect fled the Tri-Cities on a commercial airline flight. Two men are wanted in connection with the shootings - Vicente Mendez Ruiz, 19, and Pedro Mendez, who is between 22 and 25.

Meanwhile, results of autopsies performed on the victims were released Monday by Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Denis DeFelice, who also serves as county coroner.

The examinations determined that au five died of multiple gunshot wounds. "I don't think there was anything particularly surprising," DeFelice said.

The autopsies revealed indirect wounds from bullet fragments and chips of concrete, confirming Rocio s assertion that the assailants continued firing after the victims had fallen to the floor, according to DeFelice.

"The number of direct gunshot wounds varied from two to seven per victim," DeFelice added. The deaths are officially classified as homicides following the autopsies.

Dr. John Howard, a forensic pathologist with the King County Medical Examiners Office, performed the autopsies Thursday and Friday. "It is fair to say there aren't any real unexpected findings," Howard said during a telephone interview Monday.

"The important functions are to carefully document all the injuries, recover the evidence and to present it at trial. That's really the case in most homicides. Determining the cause of death is obvious," he added.

"Certainly, it's more difficult when dealing with multiple gunshot wounds.

Keeping the logistical order of all five victims, all that takes a great deal of care," be said.

Howard performed the autopsies under a forensic pathology program, operated jointly by the state Death Investigation Council and the University of Washington.

The program sponsors a single pathologist to perform autopsies in counties without a full-fledged medical examiner program, Howard said. Only three of the state's 39 counties have such programs.

"We're trying to establish some statewide standards," he said. So far this year, Howard has performed 66 autopsies under the program and expects to perform as many as 150 by the end of the year.

A rosary service for murder victim Rafael Parra Magallon, 22, has been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 1320 W. Henry St., Pasco, said a spokeswoman for Greenlee Funeral Home in Pasco.

Friends and family of the other four victims are arranging for their bodies to be sent to Mexico.

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