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Officials rule Kono’s killer insane

At least two medical experts determined that accused killer Wayne Brent Hower was indeed insane at the time he admittedly shot local shopkeeper Alan Kono in front of his store last June, according to Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery.

Montgomery said the long-awaited results of the mental evaluations — one performed by a court-appointed doctor and one by a doctor his defense attorneys hired — performed at Western State Hospital were presented to Judge Leila Mills in Kitsap County Superior Court last week.

“(The experts) believe Hower was insane when he committed the crime,” Montgomery said, explaining that it has yet to be determined whether the defense has proven its case. “The state’s position is that it is the defense’s burden to prove (Hower) was insane, and we are going to hold them to that burden.”

Montgomery said that determination will either be made by Mills in a hearing next month, or will be left for a jury to decide at his trial, which is currently scheduled to begin March 1.

Hower, 44, was transferred to the state hospital near Tacoma in late July after pleading “not-guilty by reason of insanity” to shooting Kono on June 23.

A mental evaluation of Hower — who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a hybrid of schizophrenia — was originally ordered by 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, the attorneys changed Hower’s plea to “not guilty by reason of insanity,” indicating that he was no longer denying that he committed the shooting, but 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.

Hower’s next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14 and, depending on what’s decided then, Montgomery said Judge Mills might be deciding in December whether Hower is acquitted, or will face a jury trial.

“At that time (Mills) can do two things,” Montgomery said. “She can hear all the evidence and decide yes, the defense met their burden of proof, or no, they didn’t, and let the jury decide.”

Hower was arrested for 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 on June 23.

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 recorded by a surveillance camera outside the store arriving in the parking lot about an hour before the shooting.

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

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