Hower moved to Western State Hospital

The man accused of killing shopkeeper Alan Kono in front of his Mile Hill Drive store in June was transferred to Western State Hospital last month to finally begin court ordered evaluations, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Wayne Brent Hower, 44, was moved from Kitsap County Jail to the hospital on July 28, a week after the latest status hearing in the first-degree murder case against him was held in Kitsap County Superior Court on July 22.

Arrested within a half hour of Kono’s murder on June 23 and charged the following day, Hower has since remained in Kitsap County Jail waiting for a bed to open up at the hospital, which has been backlogged with cases for weeks.

An evaluation of Hower — who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a hybrid of schizophrenia — was originally ordered by Judge Leila Mills to determine his competency to stand trial after defense attorneys David LaCross and John O’Melveny entered a not-guilty plea on their client’s behalf.

Soon, however, LaCross and O’Melveny changed Hower’s plea to “not guilty by reason of insanity,” indicating that he was no longer denying that he committed the shooting and instead contends he was not sane when it occurred.

Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery said this meant Hower would still need an evaluation, but one that determined whether he was “insane or had diminished capacity” at the time of the crime, and not whether he is competent to stand trial.

Montgomery said the plea change also shifted the focus of the prosecution away from proving Hower committed the crime and toward proving what his mental condition was at the time.

At previous hearings, Montgomery said Western State estimated that it might be more than two months before Hower’s evaluation could begin, but that a new hospital unit was opening soon that might expedite the process.

Hower’s next status hearing is scheduled in Kitsap County Superior Court on Aug. 15 at 9 a.m.

According to court documents, Hower is accused of shooting Kono, the longtime owner of the popular P.J.’s Market, in the head shortly after 1:20 p.m. in the parking lot of his 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.

According to Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies investigating the scene, Hower was seen by several witnesses and recorded by a surveillance camera taking out a shotgun and firing at Kono. Witnesses then reportedly followed Hower to his residence, where deputies arrested him 16 minutes later.

No motive for the shooting has been reported.

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