Yakima County Prosecutor Says No To Death Penalty For Harper

Yakima County Prosecutor Says No To Death Penalty For Harper
YAKIMA -- The Yakima County Prosecutor is not convinced his case against the prime suspect in the West Valley Triple murders is strong enough to seek the ultimate punishment.

the evidence against Kevin Harper may be strong, but it's not iron clad, according to Prosecutor Jim Hagarty.

And while he stopped short of saying the case, the evidence or the ongoing investigation puts Harper's guilt in question, the burden and the cost of trying this as a death penalty case is no longer an option.

"I am today exercising my discretion in this matter and am choosing not to seek the death penalty against Kevin Haprer," Said County Prosecutor, Jim Hagarty at a morning press conference.

This announcement, the decision not to try to put Kevin Harper on death row, is far from admitting the case against him has weakened according to the Prosecutor.

The issue is much more about proof. But when the state chooses that kind of punishment, it had better have one rock solid case.

Hagarty explained it this way; "It almost needs to be air tight and without any doubt. In this case as we sit here today, I do not believe we have a death penalty strong case."

For Kevin Harper, now sitting in the Yakima County jail charged with three brutal murders, burglary and weapons offenses, today was a good day, and a boost for his defense.

Pete Mazzone is Harper lawyer. "He's very happy that the prosecutor's office has decided not to pursue the death penalty on him and we're gonna be working tirelessly to completely vindicate him."

The decision for Harper will have no bearing on the cases against the three others charged in these murders, Harper's wife, Crystal West, his friend, Tennance Buckinham and of course his accused partner in these murders, Tracy Colton, herself charged with taking part in the killings. What may still change is that before this trial ever begins, all four could be facing murder charges. Because this investigation is anything but complete.

The Goggins left behind a huge network of friends and co-workers, many of whom follow every development in the case.
Ellen and Ray Vanderwall were even here for this announcement.

"I understand why he came to the decision that he did even though we're supporters of the death penalty and always have been," they said.

They say they'll attend the trial as well.

"We'll try to attend as many of the sessions as we can out of respect for our friends. We were very close. Just a way to support them and have them at least represented in the room."

There is a strong interest in this case, not only for those who knew the Goggins, but for a community demanding justice in what was the most horrific crime here in recent memory... and perhaps in part because the case and the number of people tied to it, just keeps changing.

The trial for Kevin Harper isn't expected to get underway until at least the start of next year.

And when Action News asked if additional arrests could still be made in the case, the answer was a confident, yes.