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Monday, December 4, 2023
Dec. 4, 2023

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Assault case against Woodland man, 82, dismissed after accused dies

By , Columbian staff reporter

The assault case against an 82-year-old Woodland man accused of shooting a handyman in July was dismissed after attorneys learned he died.

Joseph L. Ralls was charged in Clark County Superior Court with first-degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. He made his first court appearance in September on a summons.

At a Feb. 16 hearing for a defense motion to postpone his trial, an attorney indicated Ralls had died. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Gasperino filed a motion March 3 to dismiss the case, saying he’d received a certified death certificate for Ralls.

Court records do not list Ralls’ date or cause of death.

Woodland police responded at 3:16 p.m. July 27 to a shooting at Horseshoe Lake Mobile Home Park, 296 Island Aire Drive. Dispatch told officers someone had reportedly been shot but left in a Dodge pickup, according to a probable cause affidavit.

When officers arrived, they found Ralls fallen at the bottom of a wheelchair ramp. Officers said Ralls told them a burglar tried to enter his home, court records state.

About 15 minutes later, Woodland police were notified of a shooting victim outside the Cowlitz Tribal police station. The man was identified as 33-year-old Kenneth Aguilar. He told officers he’d gone to Ralls’ house to collect money he owed him when Ralls shot him, the affidavit states.

Court records state Ralls told investigators Aguilar had been a handyman for him for a few months. Ralls said Aguilar came to his house demanding $100, but he said Aguilar was only owed $25 for a lawn mower belt. He said his wife tried to give Aguilar a check for $25, but Aguilar refused to accept it.

Ralls told officers he was defending his house when he shot Aguilar because Aguilar was standing outside on the wheelchair ramp, the affidavit states.

Investigators said Ralls told them more than once he wished he was a better shot. He later said Aguilar was a “tweaker that needed to be put down.” He went outside after he shot Aguilar to check where he was, Ralls said, when he fell from his wheelchair, according to the affidavit.

Officers said Ralls was a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms.

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