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Next step unclear after judge dismisses triple homicide case

October 3, 2018

This 2018 booking photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows Kitage Lynch. Whether Lynch, imprisoned for attacking police officers in metro Phoenix, will eventually stand trial in three killings in rural western Arizona is uncertain after a judge dismissed the triple-homicide case while chastising prosecutors for being unprepared. Judge Matthew Newman's recent order said he dismissed the triple-homicide case in La Paz County against Lynch because prosecutors failed to have DNA evidence tested and prepare for trial while Lynch awaits trial in Maricopa County. (Arizona Department of Corrections via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — Whether a man already sentenced to prison for attacking police officers in a Phoenix suburb will eventually stand trial in the killings of three Washington state residents in western Arizona is uncertain after a judge dismissed charges in the triple homicide case while chastising prosecutors for being unprepared for trial.

Judge Matthew Newman of La Paz County Superior Court said in a Sept. 21 order that he dismissed the case against Kitage Lynch because prosecutors failed to have DNA evidence tested and take other steps to prepare for trial while Lynch was jailed in Phoenix in the Maricopa County case.

Newman’s order allows charges to be refiled, but defense attorney Scott Ruffner said Lynch may ask an appellate court to rule that prosecutors still face an Oct. 15 deadline to begin a trial on murder and other charges.

Lynch is imprisoned on Maricopa County convictions stemming from an April 2017 confrontation with Glendale police.

The confrontation occurred soon after the bodies of the La Paz County homicide victims — 78-year-old Lester Lindsay and 75-year-old Ella Lindsay, a married couple from Wenatchee, Washington, and 81-year-old Alice Boyd of Bingen, Washington — were found.

Newman’s order dismissing the case said it was clear during an Aug. 31 hearing that prosecutors “had done very little to actually prepare the case for trial since obtaining the indictment a year ago.”

After Newman denied prosecutors’ motion to suspend the Oct. 15 deadline, they then said in a Sept. 4 motion that they wanted the case set for trial by the Oct. 15 deadline and could truncate their case to meet the deadline.

Newman balked at that.

“This court will not sit by idly while unprepared attorneys try to rush a case to trial because they don’t want to admit that they are unprepared,” the judge wrote.

It’s obvious, Newman said, that prosecutors are “more interested in playing games with the speedy trial rules than actually properly preparing the case for trial.”

Chief Deputy County Attorney Karen Hobbs did not return a call for comment, but County Attorney Tony Rogers sent the AP a brief statement saying his office “will continue to monitor the laboratory scientific analysis of evidence collected in Lynch’s La Paz County case.”

When testing is complete, “the La Paz County Attorney’s Office will review the full results and proceed accordingly,” Rogers added.

Ruffner said Newman “might have overstepped” by dismissing the case, possibly infringing on Lynch’s due-process rights.

“Judge Newman basically gave them a present,” Ruffner said during a telephone interview, referring to prosecutors. “They’re nice people but they’re overworked.”

Prosecutors had a grand jury indict Lynch in 2017 in the triple homicide while he awaited trial in the Glendale case.

A La Paz County sheriff’s official told The Associated Press in 2016 that witnesses said they saw a person matching Lynch’s description “kind of wandering” near the homicide scene and that investigators suspected Lynch somehow was stranded and that obtaining transportation may have been a motive for the killings.

Authorities said Lynch had a vehicle of one of the homicide victims and a gun stolen from the La Paz County homicide scene when he was arrested in Glendale after allegedly shooting at officers responding to a report of a man firing a gun in a field. The officers were not injured.

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