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Hower slated to face murder charge in spring

Tensions ran high at the latest status hearing for accused murderer Wayne Brent Hower, as his lawyers revealed to a packed courtroom that not only did they not have his long-awaited mental evaluation yet but that scheduling conflicts would push the defendant’s trial date into next spring.

Hower, 44, is charged with shooting shopkeeper Alan Kono, 48, to death in front of his popular store on Mile Hill Drive on June 23. Within 20 minutes of the shooting, witnesses helped Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies locate and arrest Hower.

A month after the shooting, Hower — who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a hybrid of schizophrenia — was transferred to Western State Hospital near Tacoma for a state-ordered mental evaluation after pleading “not-guilty by reason of insanity” to the murder charge.

Hower has since returned to Kitsap County Jail, and to a seemingly endless string of status hearings in Kitsap County Superior Court — packed each time with his and Kono’s family members — as the lawyers on both sides await his completed evaluation.

“(We) still have not received the evaluation, and I do not have a status on when it is supposed to arrive,” said Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery at the latest status hearing Friday.

However, defense attorney David LaCross told Judge Leila Mills he was told the report would be given to him “today, but not by the time of this hearing.”

“I understood at our last status hearing (two weeks ago) that the mental evaluation was imminent at that point,” Mills said, who then was asked to approve a tentative trial date of April 10.

When Mills immediately asked why the trial could not be held earlier, Montgomery said while the “state was ready to go at any time,” the defense had numerous scheduling conflicts.

LaCross and co-counsel John O’Melveny then explained that due to previously planned vacations and another trial, they were not able to schedule the start of the two-month trial any earlier.

However, Mills insisted on at least attempting to begin the trial sooner, moving the trial up to begin on March 1.

“My interest is to get this moving, and at least attempt to get this resolved before April,” she said.

Kono’s family was visibly frustrated at the delays.

“I don’t understand why this is taking so long,” said his widow, Jennifer.

Hower’s next status hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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