Fruit Valley shooting case on hold

Investigation must wait till police detective finishes role in an aggravated murder trial

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

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It could be a month before the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Office makes a charging decision on a Fruit Valley shooting earlier this month that left one man dead.

A resident at 1927 W. 27th St. shot and killed Thomas L. Miller, 45, in his front yard about 5:30 p.m. on May 9. The two men, who police say knew each other, had some sort of dispute with weapons a few minutes prior to shots being fired, according to dispatch logs.

Police detained and questioned the shooter, whose name has not been released, immediately after the incident. No arrests, however, have been made.

The reason for the delay in the case, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Fairgrieve said, is due to the fact that the lead investigator for the deadly shooting, Vancouver Police Detective Lawrence Zapata, is also the lead investigator in the aggravated murder case against Dennis Wolter.

Wolter's trial began this week and is expected to last two more weeks, Fairgrieve said.

"It's pretty common that the lead detective in a homicide case assists the prosecution and is there during trial," he said. "He or she has the best knowledge of factual background and are a tremendous assistance to us when we're in trial."

Wolter is accused of the stabbing death of his 41-year-old girlfriend Kori Fredericksen and of dumping her body down an embankment along Southeast Evergreen Highway.

"In a violent crime, we want to try and investigate the case as quickly as possible … sometimes the evidence develops quickly and (police) develop probable cause and can make an arrest right there," Fairgrieve said.

With the shooting in the Fruit Valley neighborhood, however, the case isn't as clear, he said.

"The nature of the evidence is more ambiguous. It will take more time to figure out what's out there," he said.

He said that most of the investigation has been done, but the case has not been completed and forwarded to the prosecuting attorney's office yet.

"We want to try and get it investigated as quickly as possible, but the more important matter is the case is thoroughly investigated and that we make the right decision," Fairgrieve said.

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; emily.gillespie@columbian.com