Hower slated to stand trial in April

The South Kitsap man accused of shooting shopkeeper Alan Kono will now stand trial, since the hearing that may have acquitted him abruptly ended Tuesday morning.

Wayne Brent Hower, 45, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Kono, 48, the longtime owner of P.J.’s Market. He has since pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and a three-week hearing that could have acquitted him began this week, but ended after one day.

Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Savage said the hearing ended after the defendant was read his rights.

Savage explained that to proceed with this type of hearing, the defendant has to give up his right to not incriminate himself, which Hower refused to do.

“So now we’re headed to trial April 12,” he said.

Kono was killed on June 23, 2005, and a month after the shooting, Hower — who has been diagnosed with both schizoaffective disorder and 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.

In October, two staff examiners at Western State Hospital and a third doctor determined that although Hower might be competent to stand trial, they believed he was insane at the time he shot Kono.

In December, Savage and fellow prosecutor Montgomery requested that Hower be interviewed by a fourth expert, well-known forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz.

Despite the objections of Hower’s defense attorneys, Judge Leila Mills granted the prosecutors’ motion.

Dietz, who has testified at many high-profile murder trials, interviewed Hower last month and was to testify at his hearing, Savage said.

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