Loved ones of an expectant mother killed last summer grasped hands Tuesday as the man accused of pulling the trigger walked into a Kennewick courtroom.
Francisco J. Resendez Miranda, 23, of Umatilla, made his first appearance in Benton County Superior Court for the fatal shootings of two Pasco women and a man. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
The bodies of Abigail Torres-Renteria, 23, Victoria Torres, 19, and David Perez-Saucedo, 22, were found Aug. 9 on farmland off Nine Canyon Road, southeast of the intersection with Coffin Road south of Kennewick. 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.
Relatives and friends of all three victims attended the court hearing. Torres-Renteria’s loved ones wore black sweatshirts memorializing the woman with her picture.
Aggravated murder in Washington carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release, or death, if prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty.
Resendez Miranda was appointed two attorneys — Shane Silverthorn of Ellensburg and Michael Iaria of Seattle — because of that possibility.
The trial is set for March 9, though it may be rescheduled because of the complexity of the case. Resendez Miranda would have to agree to waive his right to a speedy trial.
There has been some confusion with Resendez Miranda’s last name, as jail records and court documents in Oregon and Washington show different spellings and variations. His siblings reportedly spell their name as Resendiz.
On Tuesday, Silverthorn told Judge Bruce Spanner that his client’s name was correct as it was written on the Benton County charging information.
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 governor’s offices in both states. He was taken to the Benton County jail Friday morning.
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 on 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 in connection with the triple homicide.
Benton County sheriff’s officials in late August 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.
Resendez Miranda’s extradition warrant was for $1 million bail. But Prosecutor Andy Miller said now that Resendez Miranda is in custody and facing aggravated murder, he is not entitled to any bail while awaiting trial.
Resendez Miranda also has a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.