Trial begins in shipyard shooting deaths

Associated Press

SEATTLE — An unused bullet and a discarded backpack are among the evidence linking Kevin Cruz to a blood bath at a Lake Union shipyard two years ago, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

In his opening statement, Deputy Prosecutor Tim Bradshaw told jurors that Cruz, 32, of SeaTac, a former Northlake Shipyard employee, was a lazy worker who felt slighted by the company. He believed he was exacting revenge when he walked into the shipyard’s office and opened fire on four people Nov. 3, 1999, Bradshaw said.

Peter Giles, 27, and Russell Brisendine, 43, were killed. Jaromir Mach and Patrick Ming survived. Brisendine, a marine engineer, lived in Lynnwood, and left behind a wife and four children.

Police swarmed the residential neighborhood searching for a suspect.

None was arrested until two months later, when a Lynnwood mountain-biker found a backpack near a trail at neighboring Gasworks Park. The backpack, which Cruz later acknowledged was his, contained a holster, a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and camouflage clothing. DNA samples from the holster and clothing matched Cruz’s, Bradshaw said.

"There is a possibility the DNA from the holster is not Mr. Cruz’s," Bradshaw told the King County Superior Court jury. "That possibility, you should know, is one in 600 million."

Bradshaw also said markings on an unfired bullet found in Cruz’s bedroom show it had been loaded into the murder weapon. Cruz has claimed that the gun was not his and that he is being framed for the crime.

Bradshaw showed jurors photos of the blood-splattered chair in which Giles was shot and of the bullet holes in his back.

Cruz, who worked at the shipyard from fall 1998 to early 1999, is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He could face execution.

With buzzed hair and a thin mustache, he appeared jovial in court. During breaks, he laughed and turned often to look at the three dozen friends and relatives of the victims. He gave reporters a thin-lipped smile as he walked by.

His lawyers said he was not the gunman, even though they acknowledged they could not say where he was at the time of the killings. Instead, they suggested that a convicted rapist who lived in his car 50 yards from the shipyard was responsible.

The rapist, Kerry Pinard, told police he was near the shipyard when the shooting took place and that he saw Cruz leaving the scene. He more closely matched the initial description of the suspect as given by the survivors of the shooting, defense lawyer Eric Lindell said.

The survivors have since identified Cruz as the shooter. Pinard, now serving a life sentence, is expected to testify in the case.

Defense lawyers said there were other shortcomings in the case against Cruz. No confession, no fingerprints and no blood linked him to the crime. The DNA samples that pointed to Cruz were handled sloppily and even mixed up by lab technicians, they said.

"On Nov. 3, 1999, he didn’t shoot anybody," Lindell said.

Lindell also said there was nothing Cruz wanted revenge for.

Prosecutors allege Cruz didn’t like being bossed around by co-workers sick of his laziness. They also say he was angry because the shipyard’s insurance company had initially refused to pay him compensation for a supposed work-related injury. Cruz said a forklift operator had "harpooned" his leg; prosecutors say the severity of the injury was faked.

In court Wednesday, Cruz swung his right leg in a limp.

The insurance company eventually paid for a few weeks of chiropractic treatment, Lindell said, and there was nothing for Cruz to feel bitter about. Cruz had moved on to other jobs by the time of the killings.

While Cruz has said he was tinkering with a car at his mother’s house at the time of the killings, Lindell acknowledged he didn’t know about the validity of that claim.

But within two hours of the attacks, Cruz was across town, meeting with another former boss about potentially being rehired.

Copyright ©2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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