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Hower’s lawyers decide to plead insanity

The South Kitsap man accused of shooting Alan Kono in front of his market two weeks ago is now pleading insanity to the murder charge filed against him in Kitsap County Superior Court.

According to court documents, defense attorneys David LaCross and John O’Melveny on Friday entered a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” on behalf of their client, Wayne Brent Hower.

Hower, 44, suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a hybrid of schizophrenia, and is currently prescribed risperidone, an antipsychotic drug used in the treatment of disorganized or psychotic thinking, including aggression or false perceptions.

Arrested within a half hour of Kono’s murder on June 23 and charged with first-degree murder the following day, Hower is still being held in Kitsap County Jail awaiting transfer to Western State Hospital for a court-ordered mental evaluation.

Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery said the change in plea indicated that Hower’s defense team was no longer denying that he committed the shooting, and instead is contending that he was not sane when it occurred.

She said this change now shifts the focus of the prosecution away from proving Hower committed the crime and more toward proving what his mental condition was at the time.

On June 27, Judge Leila Mills ordered a mental evaluation of Hower to commence within 48 hours. However, when the next hearing in the case was held on July 1, Montgomery told Judge Jay B. Roof that a doctor from Western State said his facility could not comply with that order.

Due to the volume of other cases pending from other counties, Montgomery said the doctor estimated it would be more than two months before Hower’s evaluation could begin.

Roof then struck the previous evaluation order and ordered that Hower’s evaluation “will commence according to the policies and procedures of Western State Hospital.”

Hower’s defense attorneys stated no objection to removing the 48-hour order, but requested to be notified within 10 days of any scheduled evaluation to allow enough time for their expert to be present.

Montgomery said the latest information from Western State is that the hospital is planning to open a new unit soon, and that Hower’s evaluation may be completed in a shorter time than originally estimated.

Hower is accused of shooting Kono, the longtime owner of the popular P.J.’s Market on Mile Hill Drive, in the head shortly after 1:20 p.m. in the parking lot of the store in plain view of several customers and passersby.

Kono, 48, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died of a gunshot wound to the head. Kono was married with two children.

According to Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies investigating the scene, Hower was recorded by a surveillance camera outside the store arriving in the parking lot about an hour before the shooting.

For nearly the entire hour he is reportedly seen waiting in his car, only entering the store once to buy cigarettes, before he is shown taking out his shotgun and firing at Kono as witnesses described.

Several deputies, aided by witnesses, then arrested Hower at his residence 16 minutes later, but have reportedly not uncovered a motive for the killing.

According to court documents, Hower has no prior felony convictions, but one for misdemeanor negligent driving.

His last known job was as a counselor for Kitsap Mental Health Services, where he was treated for several years for his own mental illness, but at the time of his arrest he was unemployed and receiving disability payments.

He is divorced, and has two children.

A status hearing in his case is scheduled for July 22.

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