Because some of the witnesses and defendants have ties to gangs and many have lengthy criminal histories, sheriff's deputies stepped up security in the courthouse. A security guard posted outside the courtroom is searching purses, bags and backpacks and double-checking spectators for weapons.
“Even the lawyers are getting searched,” a staffer said Thursday.
Ronald Brown is the first of three men to go to trial for the Dec. 1, 2011 home invasion robbery in Marysville that ended in the death of a Tacoma man.
Patrick Buckmaster, 30, was shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave in east Snohomish County. Prosecutors allege that Johnathan “Bigfoot” Frohs shot Buckmaster after he mistook him for a rival when the Tacoma man walked into the house wearing a hockey mask.
Buckmaster's family was told by a suspected member of the Aryan Family prison gang that Buckmaster was taken on vacation because he'd done right by an outlaw motorcycle gang during a recent job. Relatives believe that was the gang's way of notifying them of Buckmaster's death.
Investigators suspect that the home-invasion robbery was set in motion after two men robbed a drug dealer of $4,700 and methamphetamine. That man reportedly rounded up some friends and stormed a house in search of his robbers. They weren't there, but the crew held two people inside the house hostage, demanding money and threatening their relatives, according to court papers.
One of those allegedly taken hostage was on the witness stand Thursday. He said he knew trouble was breathing down his neck after hearing that Kenny Easley, aka Dirty, had been ripped off. He told the jury drug dealers don't just roll over when someone steals their dope, money and car.
“It's about respect,” the man said.
He said he was certain things were headed south for him after he took a call from a man, who said, “First the boys are coming over and then the men will be showing up.”
The man said he was home with his dog, Pumpkin, a Labrador Poodle mix who wouldn't hurt a flea, when the heavily-armed crew showed up and began searching for the two men accused of robbing them. His wife returned home a short time later and also was held against her will, court papers said.
After Buckmaster was shot, everyone scattered. People later returned to the house to clean up and move Buckmaster's body, court papers said.
A handful of men have pleaded guilty for their parts in the home-invasion robbery and drug rip-off. Frohs, who is charged with murder, is scheduled to go to trial in June, along with Clark Johnson. Jeffrey Brinkley's trial is scheduled for next week. He's accused of robbing, assaulting and kidnapping Easley. If convicted, that would be his third-strike, sending him to prison for life, according to prosecutors.
Brown's trial could last a few weeks.
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