Union-Bulletin Court Report

DAYTON — Blood, bullets, booze, buildings, a body. Those were among the items presented to jurors on the second day of the trial at Columbia County Courthouse for a man charged with murder and assault.

Benjamin Orozco, 44, was arrested in Mexico and extradited to Dayton in December 2016 and has since been housed at the Washington State Penitentiary in lieu of $2 million bail.

He is accused, along with former co-defendant David Delarosa, of shooting to death Lance Terry and injuring David Eaton on July 7, 1996, near downtown Dayton. Delarosa was granted immunity in 1996 in exchange for testifying for the state.

Orozco fled to Mexico after the shooting, according to court documents. He is claiming self-defense in this case.

Orozco’s trial, presided over by Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram, continued Wednesday with the prosecution bringing witnesses to the stand and adding evidence taken from the crime scene July 7, 1996.

Eaton was among those the prosecutors called to testify. He said he grew up with Terry and was his best friend. He also said he had had many convictions since the shooting, including burglaries and thefts. Eaton said after getting off work as loggers with Terry, they drove Terry’s Ford Taurus to Eaton’s house, then to a friend’s house even though the mother of Eaton’s child begged and argued with him not to go.

Eaton said he didn’t stay there long because the friend said Eaton’s girlfriend had called and didn’t want them there.

However, Eaton and Terry were there long enough to drink a couple shots of whiskey, Eaton said, and took a bottle with them in the car.

From there, Eaton said he and Terry went to a mini mart, now a PDQ on Main Street, and ran into friends, including Jose Acevedo and Amy Lewis. Eaton said he and Acevedo always “gave each other a lot of crap,” and ended up wrestling at the mini mart after Acevedo called him a name. The match ended when he lost, Eaton said, and someone said the police were coming.

He and Terry cruised up and down Main Street, he said, which was the thing to do, until someone whistled. Eaton said that’s what friends did to get each other’s attention, so Terry circled around until they saw David Delarosa, whom they knew.

“Are you a racist or something?” Eaton described what Delarosa said as he pointed toward Terry.

Eaton said he tried telling Delarosa that he and Acevedo always joked around, and said Terry told Delarosa, he “knew better than that,” of himself.

Then, Terry apparently told Eaton to sit in the car as he ran around the back of the vehicle and pulled off his shirt, putting his hands in the air, Eaton said. Meanwhile, Orozco came in from the side and the two were going toward each other, he said, when Orozco shot Terry.

“He dropped like a sack of spuds,” Eaton said. “I still have dreams about it now.”

Eaton said Orozco aimed the gun at him and shot him while he jumped into the car. Orozco continued firing, Eaton said, until all he heard was “click, click, click,” as the gun ran out of bullets. Eaton said Orozco and Delarosa then fled on foot.

Eaton said he struggled to get to the Dayton Inn, which was a bar at the time, and called his girlfriend’s mom. He also said he had trouble recalling everything that night, as he was going in and out of blackouts.

Earlier Wednesday, Deputy Lee Brown, who has served 26 years at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, described his work that night, saying he spent most of it looking for small cars, possibly matching the suspect’s car, he said. He also said he was present while the autopsy was performed on Lance Terry and a “full metal jacket round with the tip of a bullet was removed from his body.” It was then sent to the state crime lab in case firearms matching it were found. However, none were recovered, he said.

Former Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dale Preas, who now works for the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office, testified about the night of the shooting, describing the crime scene and evidence collected, which included seven shell casings, beer cans, and blood stains. Prosecutors also showed a video taken when deputies were marking and recovering evidence from the scene.

Dolores Willis Thompson also testified, recalling that she was driving with her husband back from Idaho, where they had gone to get supplies for the bar they used to own, Homeport Tavern. After putting away the supplies, around 10 p.m., she said they drove to the alley behind St. Vincent de Paul’s to look at some couches, she said.

The pair thought they heard fireworks, but it turned out to be the shooting, she said.

“Two gentlemen came running toward the pickup,” she said. “The smaller one smashed a beer can on the window of the pickup.”

Her husband, she said, backed up the truck then and the other man “Stood there and stared at me (through the window). He didn’t blink, he didn’t say nothing.”

She said the two took off on foot and she and her husband continued to the crime scene where she “went to see what she could do to help.”

Willis Thompson also said she knew of Delarosa and Orozco, but knew Eaton and Terry a little better.

The day ended with the prosecution calling Delarosa to the stand. Delarosa said he has lived in Texas since 2005, but grew up in Columbia County and was “good friends with Orozco.” He said he and Orozco were at a house party before the shooting and Orozco went to the store, but didn’t come back so he went looking for him on Main Street, where he was.

Delarosa said Orozco said nothing about a fight over racism at the mini mart. Then, he said Eaton and Terry drove past. Delarosa said he confronted them about racial remarks at the store about four times, which irritated Terry, who got out of the car. Delarosa said Terry then went around the back of the car and took off his shirt while Orozco moved toward him and began firing the gun.

Delarosa said he wasn’t afraid of Terry “besides him being big.” But Terry also told Delarosa he was going to “kick his ass,” he said.

Terry then was shot four times, Delarosa said, by Orozco and Terry fell to the ground. Delarosa said it was difficult to see Eaton being shot, as he was in the car and Delarosa was beginning to run away.

And run, he did. Delarosa said he ran to Waitsburg, then hitchhiked to Walla Walla and stayed at a friend’s house before meeting up with Orozco in Tri-Cities. He said the meeting was unplanned and the two never discussed the night’s happenings until much later.

From Tri-Cities, the two rode with a friend to Mexico and wound up in Mexico City, he said, where they lived together until Delarosa was arrested and brought back to the U.S. in 1998.

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.

Recommended for you