3 murder charges dropped in Yakima beating deathsOctober 10, 2012 @ 5:27 pm
YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all first-degree murder charges against a Yakima County man who was accused of beating a man, his wife and 98-year-old mother to death during a robbery.
Only two minor charges remained in a plea deal struck between prosecutors and 30-year-old Kevin Harper and announced in a courtroom hearing, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported ( http://bit.ly/Opi5Uw) Wednesday.
Harper pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and a count of possession of stolen property, and was sentenced to just over seven years in prison.
Harper had been charged in the February 2011 slayings of Bill Goggin, his wife, Pauline, and mother, Bettye.
The plea deal stunned the packed courtroom, which included friends of the Goggin family as well as numerous lawyers and courthouse personnel on hand for the proceedings.
"I'm just blown away," Mike Morrisette, a friend of victims Bill and Pauline Goggin, said moments after court adjourned. "When will we know who committed those murders?"
Prosecutors said that they believe murder charges against Harper could not be proven.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Ken Ramm told Judge Ruth Ruekauf the plea deal stemmed from the emergence two weeks ago of a new witness that "shifted the timeline" by several hours and thus affected Harper's alibi.
Ramm's statement to the court appeared to coincide with a new motion by Harper's attorneys in which they accused sheriff's detectives of failing to account suspicious activity reported by a neighbor of the Goggin family.
Harper's attorneys said a woman who lived directly across the street from the Goggin home not only witnessed suspicious activity at the home on the night of the attack but was told by detectives that her observations did not "fit" their theory of the crime.
Her statement was not turned over to Harper's defense team in violation of fair-trial rules and may not have even been turned over to prosecutors, Harper's attorneys said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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