Special Reports

Investigators find no link among East-Side murders

Law officers who met in Moses Lake this week say they found no major link between 16 murders of Hispanics that have occurred in Eastern Washington this summer.

But investigators say they will continue searching for clues and suspects among the information they traded about individual cases.

About 75 local, state and federal officers gathered at the Port of Moses Lake building in Grant County on Thursday. The data-swapping session was called by Grant County officials, who are seeking the killer of a man who was shot to death at the Quincey Lake Range in August.

The victim in that killing, Bernardino Navarro Torres, of Wenatchee, is the nephew of Isidro S. Torres, 34, of Pasco, who was shot to death in Umatilla in September.

"There were probably some information exchanges between agencies that will be beneficial," said Larry Boyd, Grant County chief deputy. "On our particular case, we did not find anything that we weren't already aware of."

Similarities between the murders, most of them drug-related, led some to speculate that there was a larger link. Tri-City officers said before the meeting the exchange of information would be helpful, but they did not expect to find a broader connection.

Officers confirmed after Thursday's meeting that they found no sign of an organized crime battle nor a major narcotics "family."

Pasco Police Chief Don Francis said he go not help catching suspects in the murder of five people in a Pasco auto body shop, but he said the meeting was "very useful" and hopes such meetings continue.

"We found some names cropping up in different communities," he said. "They can be in Pasco today, Yakima tomorrow and Umatilla the next day."

The dealers may wander from city to city, selling drugs or committing burglaries. The fights often occur over drug deals, girlfriends or debts, Francis said.

"I just don't see any concentrated organization or (effort) to control the drug trade throughout Washington or the Northwest," he said.

Some minor link or friendship can probably be found "if one looks long enough and hard enough at any two organizations," said Kennewick Capt. Ron Waldner. But he added, "I know of no information or evidence that would suggest there is this greater organization that is behind most of the incidents and tragedies."

Officers will now begin studying the information they gathered Thursday, said Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim.

Despite similarities between the killings, he said, police are not linking them "as far as saying one in Pasco and one in Grant County or one in Yakima are tied together as a crime family."

Benton County Sheriff Jim Kennedy and Richland Police Chief Dave Lewis also sent detectives to the meeting, which lasted from 10 a.m. until mid-afternoon.

"We are very pleaded with the turnout. Hopefully this will spur the interest in having additional conferences in the future," Boyd said. "I think when you have cases of the magnitude of these homicide cases and everybody is striving to solve them, to come up with any information they can is beneficial."