Crime and punishment: Highest number of domestic violence murders, prosecutor says
They don’t always make the headlines, but every Friday in King County Court, those convicted of crimes hear their sentences and KIRO Newsradio tells you the story.
Sentences last week included a convicted killer, a bank robber and a man convicted of multiple pharmacy robberies.
Crime and punishment: Man convicted for involvement in 2019 Licton Springs murder
Case 1: Joseph Gongora
Joseph Gongora was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2020. He was sentenced to around 18 years behind bars in what McNerthney says is a particularly tragic case.
“As of September 2020, he was living with his girlfriend Crystal Rohre,” McNerthney said. “They had moved here from Texas. He was in his thirties and worked in retail. Things seemed fine at first. They had been dating since 2013.”
McNerthney says Gongora’s behavior started to change at some point. “As his lawyer told the court, things went downhill when Gongora started having paranoid delusions, believing that people were tormenting him and patting him with electronic devices.”
McNerthney says Gongora started behaving erratically. “He made an unexpected trip to Texas the month before the murder, where his family said he was not bathing and was disheveled, and he worried his mother and other relatives,” he said. -he adds.
Gongora was later diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia.
Prosecutors said when Gongora returned to Seattle, he continued to have delusions. During one such frenzy, he grabbed a gun the couple kept in the apartment and shot Rohre twice, killing her.
Rohre’s murder marked an increase in domestic violence killings in King County. McNerthney says the DA’s office assessed the numbers over the past 25 years. “The domestic violence murders are tracked by David Martin, arguably the best DV prosecutor in the state. He obtained data from the medical examiner’s office dating back to 1997 and, for the first time in King County history, looked at deaths to show the true number of DV cases – not just traditional DV homicides, but also intimate partner violence, suicides, DV-related deaths, and shootings involving officers in domestic violence incidents,” McNerthney recalled. “What this shows is that King County had relatively low numbers in 2018 and again in 2019,” he said.
But once COVID hit, the numbers soared.
“Crystal Rohre’s death was one of the cases that led to the most domestic violence-related murders – 30 of them – in a single year in King County,” McNerthney said. “Certainly the pandemic lockdown has had an impact on that total number.”
Gongora had no criminal history until his mental health deteriorated – this murder was his first known crime. For this reason, the statewide range set by lawmakers — even while guilty of the charge — is 123 to 220 months (which is roughly 10 to 18 years).
During his sentencing for the murder of Rohre on Friday, the judge decided to send Gongora to prison for a period close to the maximum allowed. McNerthney says the judge sentenced Gongora to 216 months behind bars, or exactly 18 years. According to McNerthney, “the judge also ordered evaluations for alcoholism and drug addiction, as these were factors in his life.”
Case 2: Mohammad Ahmed
“People hear about these cases on the news from time to time, but it’s rare to hear what happens next,” McNerthney explained. “King County prosecutors are getting convictions like in this case,” he added, referring to Mohamud Ahmed, who was convicted of multiple armed robberies at a pharmacy.
“He was looking for what we typically see stolen from drugstore thefts — painkillers,” McNerthney said.
Ahmed was armed with a handgun he was not allowed to have when he robbed pharmacies in February 2021.
“It was traumatic for the people who worked at the pharmacy. As you can imagine, armed robberies can turn deadly very quickly. This one didn’t, but the trauma of some of those employees is still there,” he added.
Seattle Police and the King County Sheriff’s Department investigated and helped secure the convictions against Ahmed on two first-degree robbery charges and one first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm charge.
“He was sentenced to 77 months in total — about six and a half years — which is within statewide sentencing guidelines established by state lawmakers,” McNerthney said.
The judge also ordered him to get an assessment for drug and alcohol abuse – and there is a court order to follow any recommendations that come out of that assessment.
A co-defendant pleaded guilty earlier this year and is now also enrolled in treatment, admitting he suffers from a significant drug addiction.
Case 3: Alek’s Bridges
The next case will likely help deter anyone who has ever considered robbing a bank.
“People have this idea that if you rob a bank, you’ll get away with huge loot like the bandits of 100 years ago. Maybe it’s also because of Hollywood bandit — longtime North West residents will remember him and the bank robbery spree he went on in the 1990s — because he robbed millions of banks,” McNerthney said.
“The reality is that the banks have changed to prepare for the threat, and although they rarely say how much money was taken, you can find out by looking at the sentencing documents. The fact is you rarely get any other thing than a crime when you rob a bank,” he added.
And these days it’s hardly worth the risk, as evidenced by the case of Alek Bridges, who was convicted of robbing a Kirkland bank.
“When Bridges robbed the Kirkland bank, he walked away with $985,” McNerthney said.
“He also left with a GPS tracker and threw away his gloves which helped investigators track his DNA through the CODIS law enforcement database. Bridges has made bad previous decisions – he was convicted of assault and unlawful possession of firearms and of trying to evade the police, so his DNA was already in the database that tracks the known criminals,” McNerthney explained.
Based on his previous convictions, he had an offender score of 3, putting his sentencing range set by state lawmakers between 13 and 17 months, with the judge sentencing him to 13 months.
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