Union-Bulletin Court Report

DAYTON — The prosecution rested its case and the defense asked for a dismissal Thursday — on the third 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 Thursday with the prosecution bringing its last witnesses to the stand, including experts who dissected how they processed evidence taken from the crime scene July 7, 1996.

After the prosecution rested, jurors were shuffled into their room and defense attorney Jane Richards asked Wolfram to dismiss the case because she said the prosecution hadn’t met its burden of proof against Orozco. Wolfram declined to dismiss the case.

Among the witnesses called by prosecutors before that exchange was Garfield County Fire Chief Chris Darby, who was an EMT in 1996 when the shooting occurred. He said he and others loaded Terry into an ambulance and handed him off to Dayton General Hospital emergency room staff.

“He was semi-responsive, semi-combative,” Darby said of Terry in the ambulance, adding it was normal for people to be angry when they’d suffered injuries such as Terry’s.

Darby said he had no contact with Eaton, but saw him on the bench outside of the former Dayton Inn.

Eaton’s former girlfriend, Kiley Post, also took the stand for prosecutors, and described the night of the shooting. She said she was upset that Terry and Eaton were out drinking at a friend’s house and wanted Eaton to come home for dinner, but after the two returned, they left again, she said.

“I was outside smoking and I thought I heard fireworks,” she said. “Then I heard there was a shooting and they’d been shot.”

FBI Special Agent Michael Dreher took the stand for the prosecution, and told about how he caught Orozco in Mexico. He said he identified Orozco’s family members, including his dead brother, from whom Orozco had assumed an identity. Dreher said Orozco activated his dead brother’s driver’s license, which was “suspicious.” Orozco had claimed he needed the driver’s license to secure his Mexican citizenship, Dreher said, when in fact he could’ve claimed it just because his parents were born in Mexico.

“He could’ve applied for citizenship under his true name,” Dreher said.

The defense opened by calling up Norbert “Joey” Cush, who said he was hanging out with his friends in another area near the mini mart when the alleged name-calling and scuffle took place between Terry, Eaton and others.

“The way it ended at PDQ, it didn’t feel right,” Cush said. “I didn’t feel like this was over by any means.”

He said he later heard the gunshots and went to the scene, where he saw the victims.

“He was just rambling on and on,” he said of Eaton. “He wouldn’t exactly tell me who (shot him) at that time.”

Cush said 15-20 people came out of the former Dayton Inn to see what all the commotion was and he helped Eaton get to the bench in front of the business.

The defense continues today in Orozco’s trial.

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.