The lone survivor of a 1987 mass murder in a Pasco auto body shop is now jailed as a material witness in the case because officials said they fear the man wouldn't return to Pasco if released.
Aldo Montes Lamas, who also uses the name Jesse Salas Rocio, voluntarily flew to Pasco on Saturday believing he would be testifying this week in the trial of Pedro Mendez-Reyna, who is charged with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault.
He didn't know the trial, which had been scheduled to start Tuesday, had been postponed until August. After learning the trial had been delayed, Montes had hoped to return to Mexico, where he is needed by May 9 to help settle the estate of his deceased father.
However, Montes was arrested by Pasco police at the Tri-Cities Airport because officials said he's given them reason to believe he may not return if released.
Montes didn't always return phone calls or letters and didn't contact officials for about five months as they attempted to make arrangements to interview him, Sgt. Mike Monroe said.
He also told Monroe on two occasions he planned to leave Mexico for another country. "He didn't say where he was going, only that he planned to leave the country," Monroe said.
Franklin County Prosecutor Dennis DeFelice said it is important to have Montes at the trial or to get his testimony in a deposition because he was the only eyewitness to the Oct. 13, 1987 slayings.
"Taking the witness out of the court's custody surely would jeopardize the state's case," DeFelice said.
Montes' attorney, David Corkrum, said his client voluntarily returned this time and would be willing to come back again.
"Mr. Montes is a victim in this case. He wants to testify," Corkrum said. Montes had been shot in the stomach and survived further gunshots by diving under a car, according to court records.
Judge Duane Taber appeared willing to release Montes but postponed the decision until at least Friday.
The decision whether to release Montes was complicated because it's possible he may still be held by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service on an immigration violation.
Montes had been deported from the United States because of a drug conviction. Special permission was needed for him to come to the United States for the trial but that permission ended April 15, Monroe said.
It wasn't known Wednesday if the INS planned to hold Montes for the violation. Taber ordered DeFelice to get an answer from INS officials for a hearing Friday.
Taber also asked Corkrum to contact the attorney handling Montes claim to his father's estate to see if Montes' claim to the estate would be jeopardized if he didn't return for a May 9 meeting with other heirs.