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Jan. 28, 2023

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Costs of recent homicide cases add up

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
4 Photos
Gregory Antonio Wright
Gregory Antonio Wright Photo Gallery

A snapshot of defense costs for five Clark County homicide cases that were resolved within the last 14 months:

Gregory Antonio Wright — $125,009.35

Wright’s case was a bit unusual because, while in custody, he attacked a mental health counselor at the Clark County Jail and was convicted and sentenced in that case before his murder case was resolved.

Wright was in custody for fatally strangling 19-year-old Daytona Hudgins in July 2014 at a Vancouver homeless camp.

He was ultimately sentenced to 21 years and nine months in prison, after entering an Alford plea in December to first-degree manslaughter. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain his innocence but admit there’s enough evidence to convict him. He was originally charged with second-degree murder.

Wright’s manslaughter sentence is running concurrently with the jail assault, meaning he will only serve an additional six years for the killing.

His attorney, Louis Byrd Jr., was paid $99,280 for his defense services. Nearly $10,000 went to the defense’s investigator, and more than $13,700 went to defense experts, invoices submitted to Indigent Defense show.

Ricardo Gutierrez — $117,466.42

Gutierrez was sentenced to 45 years in prison in February after Judge Robert Lewis found him guilty of first-degree murder in the beating death of 3-year-old Jose “Pepe” Castillo-Cisneros. Gutierrez attacked Pepe in May 2016 at their Battle Ground home after becoming upset over Pepe’s crying.

Of the total defense cost, $86,951.22 went to Gutierrez’s attorney, Edward LeRoy Dunkerly, attorney invoices submitted to Indigent Defense show.

More than $16,000 was paid out to defense experts, including a neuropsychologist who diagnosed Gutierrez with intermittent explosive disorder — a condition in which a person’s angry outburst is grossly disproportionate to the stressor.

About $9,400 went to the defense’s investigator, and the primary remaining costs were for transcription services and copies, invoices show.

Arkangel D. Howard — $57,359.75

Howard’s double-murder case took a year to reach trial and another couple of months for sentencing. The majority of defense costs — $33,729 — was paid to Howard’s lead attorney, Steve Rucker, and his support staff. Another $13,801.50 was paid to co-counsel Chuck Buckley and his support staff, according to attorney invoices submitted to Indigent Defense.

Howard was sentenced in May to 63 years in prison for fatally shooting two friends while they helped his then-girlfriend move out of an east Vancouver apartment complex in March 2017. A Clark County Superior Court jury found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Stephen Reichow — $52,709.98

Reichow was sentenced in May 2017 to 24 years in prison for fatally beating 36-year-old Brandon Maulding outside a storage warehouse in Battle Ground. A Clark County Superior Court jury convicted him of first- and second-degree murder and felony second-degree murder, all with a deadly weapon, in the August 2015 altercation.

Of his defense costs, $43,155.45 was paid to attorney Sean Downs; he spent 537.75 hours on the case, attorney invoices submitted to Indigent Defense show.

The remaining costs are attributed to an investigator, transcription service and copies of medical records, invoices show.

Christopher Pierce — $18,512.65

Pierce’s case, unlike the others, was handled in Clark County Juvenile Court, because he was 15 years old at the time of the crime. He and co-defendant Jaycob Trotter, now 17, were charged in the vehicle dragging death of 16-year-old Cesar D. Ortiz-Velasco in May 2017 at a Vancouver Safeway parking lot.

Pierce, now 16, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and was sentenced to confinement anywhere from 180 weeks up until age 21.

Trotter’s case is still pending in Superior Court.

Indigent Defense spent $17,160 on Pierce’s attorney, John Lutgens, $1,100 for psychiatric evaluations and about $250 on investigation services, invoices show.

Pierce said he was the passenger in the fleeing vehicle driven by Trotter. The two allegedly met up with Ortiz-Velasco to sell him marijuana but instead stole his money. As they sped away, Ortiz-Velasco held onto the vehicle. He then fell to the ground and was run over, court records say.