Hower back from Western State

Although murder defendant Wayne Brent Hower returned from Western State Hospital in time for his status hearing in Kitsap County Superior Court Friday, his mental evaluation did not.

Hower, 44, was transferred to Lakewood’s Western State in late July after pleading “not-guilty by reason of insanity” to shooting shopkeeper Alan Kono on June 23.

In front of Judge Leila Mills Friday, Hower’s defense attorney David LaCross and Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery scheduled another status hearing for Hower on Sept. 23, at which time they hoped the mental evaluations of the defendant would be completed.

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

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

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.

Hower’s attorneys also requested to receive adequate notice before any evaluations of their client occurred to ensure they could have their expert present.

Dr. Carl Redick, manager of Western State’s Program for Forensic Evaluations in Corrections and the Community, said only the evaluation required by the court order is paid for by the state, but that attorneys often have their own experts observe such evaluations or perform their own.

“Sometimes they’ll have an expert sit in, to make sure the state’s evaluation was adequate, or if there’s anything they want to challenge in court,” Redick said.

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.

His trial is scheduled to begin next month.

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