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Hower hearing scheduled to begin on Monday

A lengthy hearing to determine whether accused murderer Wayne Brent Hower will stand trial for the shooting death of P.J.’s Market owner Alan Kono is expected to begin as scheduled on Monday.

“I think everyone’s ready to go — we’re ready,” said Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Savage, whose co-prosecutor in the case is Kelly Montgomery. “There hasn’t been a motion to continue.”

Hower, 44, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting Kono, 48, in front of his popular store on Mile Hill Drive last June.

Monday’s hearing, which is expected to continue for three weeks, will be before Judge Leila Mills, who will decide at the end whether Hower’s defense attorneys David LaCross and John O’Melveny met their burden of proof.

In October, two staff examiners at Western State Hospital and a third doctor determined that although Hower — who has been diagnosed with both paranoid schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder — might be competent to stand trial, they believe he was insane at the time he shot Kono.

“(Those experts) believe Hower was insane when he committed the crime,” Montgomery said at the time, 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.”

Last month, Savage and Montgomery requested Hower be interviewed by a fourth expert, well-known forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz. Hower’s defense attorneys objected.

“The state simply doesn’t like what they’ve seen so far — that is what it comes down to,” O’Melveny said at a hearing last month. “They will just keep looking until they get somebody with an opinion they like, and if Dietz says something they don’t like, they’ll get somebody else. This has to stop somewhere, and this is the place for that.”

Mills disagreed.

“The issue of (the defendant’s) sanity is central to this case, and it is reasonable to allow for the state’s newly obtained expert to examine him,” Mills said.

Dietz, who has testified at many high-profile murder trials including that of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, potential presidential assassin John Hinckley and Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, interviewed Hower last month and will be testifying at his hearing, Savage said.

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