Kono, Hower argued about money

Prosecutors revealed a possible motive in last year’s murder of store owner Al Kono, stating in Kitsap County Superior Court on Friday that the victim and his shooter had argued about money the day before the killing.

Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery said in a hearing the state will present evidence that Kono told accused murderer Wayne Brent Hower he expected him to pay some of the large tab he had amassed at his store, and the two fought.

“The defendant told him to (back) off, and that he would deal with him later — and he did,” Montgomery said.

Hower, 45, is accused of shooting Kono last June in front of P.J.’s Market, the store Kono owned for several years on Mile Hill Drive. Diagnosed in the past with both schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder, Hower has pleaded not-guilty by reason of insanity to first-degree murder.

Law enforcement officials investigating the incident did not publicly release information regarding a possible motive for the crime, but several customers and others witnessed the afternoon shooting.

According to one witness, Matthew Hargis, who said he was having coffee with Kono in front of the store shortly before the shooting at approximately 1:20 p.m. on June 23, Hower pulled a shotgun out of his car, shot Kono in the head, then walked over to Kono’s body.

Before returning to his car and “calmly” driving away, Hargis said Hower turned to him and said, “Don’t worry, my problem is not with you. It was with (Kono).”

Shortly afterward, when deputies arrested Hower at his home, they reported he exited his vehicle and immediately displayed his hands, followed their orders and repeatedly stated, “I’m cooperating.”

Later, when deputies asked him what happened, Hower reportedly said, “Not right now. I think I will talk to my attorney first.”

The state’s medical expert, Park Dietz, determined that Hower’s statement to Hargis indicated he was “assuring him that he was not going to shoot him, too, which shows that he knew it was wrong to shoot people,” and that what he said to the deputies revealed he knew they were there because he shot Kono, and he was trying to prevent being shot himself.

“These behaviors clearly show that he was not beyond the influences of criminal law,” Dietz wrote, explaining that he disagreed with the previous determinations by Drs. R.M. Hart and Pogos Voskanian that Hower did not adequately know right from wrong.

Hower’s trial is scheduled to begin on April 12. Judge Leila Mills said Friday that 400 potential jurors have already been summoned, and approximately 150 witnesses may be called to testify.

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