A Umatilla man charged with fatally shooting three people in a Benton County orchard last summer will not face the death penalty.
Prosecutor Andy Miller confirmed for the court Tuesday that his office decided not to seek that sentence in the case of Francisco J. Resendez Miranda.
Resendez Miranda, 24, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder. If convicted of even one count of aggravated murder, he is looking at life in prison without the possibility of release.
Prosecutors allege he killed Abigail Torres-Renteria, 23, Victoria Torres, 19, and David Perez-Saucedo, 22.
The bodies of the three Pasco residents were found Aug. 9 on farmland off Nine Canyon Road, southeast of the intersection with Coffin Road. The women were not related.
The charges include the aggravating circumstance that Torres-Renteria was almost nine months pregnant when she was killed. Under Washington law, a murder charge cannot be filed for an unborn baby.
On Tuesday, defense attorney Shane Silverthorn of Ellensburg said the investigation is ongoing and he is working with Miller to set up witness interviews.
Silverthorn also told Judge Bruce Spanner that co-counsel Michael Iaria of Seattle will withdraw from the case at some point this summer and be replaced by an unnamed attorney, who will move to the area and accept a public defender contract with Benton County.
The trial date was pushed back a week to Nov. 2 because of a conflict with the judge’s personal calendar.
When asked if he was OK with the delay, Resendez Miranda told Spanner: “Well, I don’t have any other choice. You will be gone.”
He does not object to the new trial date, but does not want to go any later, he said.
Resendez Miranda was arrested Aug. 10. He was held in the Umatilla County Jail until his Oregon charges were resolved and the extradition paperwork cleared the governors’ offices in both states.
Then he was moved in mid-January to the Benton County jail in Kennewick, where he is held without bail because it is an aggravated murder case. He also has a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.
Resendez Miranda worked with Perez-Saucedo at a Wyckoff Farms property along the Columbia River in Paterson.
Court documents show the slayings might have been in retaliation for a break-in at Resendez Miranda’s apartment the night before.
Perez-Saucedo, Torres, Torres-Renteria and a fourth person had gone to Umatilla, possibly to a party, late Aug. 8. A farmworker discovered the three bodies at 5:30 a.m. the next morning in a field, which is about 15 miles from Resendez Miranda’s apartment.
No one else has been charged.
Benton County sheriff’s officials last summer said Resendez Miranda’s two brothers and father were wanted for questioning in the investigation.
Fidel Miranda-Huitron, 51, Eduardo Miranda-Resendiz, 24, and Fernando de Jesus Miranda-Resendiz, 19, all lived in the Umatilla area and are believed to have possibly left the country after the shootings.
Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to call the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at 509-628-0333.