YAKIMA, Wash. — Eight months after being brutally attacked in a vacant home he was trying to sell, local real estate broker Vern Holbrook, owner of Aspen Real Estate, died Sunday morning.
Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said Holbrook died in hospice care, and there will probably be an autopsy later this week.
Holbrook’s attack shocked the community last May, when he was found in a pool of blood in a vacant Cowiche-area home, badly beaten and with his throat cut. He was 78 at the time and was hospitalized for more than two weeks.
Though the throat wound missed an artery, the injury left him with brain damage, authorities said.
Four suspects are being held in the Yakima County jail on attempted murder charges. Now, in light of Holbrook’s death, those charges may change.
Last May 25, according to sheriff’s reports and arrest affidavits, Luis Gomez-Monges and Adriana Mendez posed as home buyers and asked for Holbrook to show them an empty house for sale in the 17000 block of Summitview Avenue.
Once there, the couple left their three young children in the car, and while Holbrook walked them through the house, Gomez-Monges struck him from behind.
Authorities said Mendez went back to the car. She said an agitated Gomez-Monges came out moments later, and they drove off quickly.
A colleague found Holbrook in the house that night, and Gomez-Monges and Mendez were arrested two days later.
They are being held on charges of first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault.
In September, Yakima County sheriff’s deputies arrested Daniel Blizzard, who prosecutors say was the mastermind behind the attack. He is also being held on first-degree attempted murder and assault charges, along with his ex-girlfriend, Jill Taylor, who was arrested a few days later.
According to documents in the case, Blizzard had tried to buy Aspen Real Estate in 2007, but Holbrook took the firm back when he failed to make payments. Stung by that, Blizzard filed a civil lawsuit against Holbrook.
Blizzard and his brothers had also set up a separate company and took out a $1.58 million life insurance policy on Holbrook, which they maintained even after the Aspen deal fell through.
According to arrest affidavits, Taylor held a grudge against Holbrook, who was her former father-in-law. She had argued with him a month before the attack because Holbrook had decided to stop financially supporting her as the mother of his grandchildren.
A former friend said she’d overheard Taylor tell Blizzard she had tried to poison Holbrook a few times. Taylor allegedly introduced Blizzard to Gomez-Monges and Mendez.
Prosecutors say Blizzard paid the couple to pose as buyers and kill Holbrook.
Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty said Sunday that prosecutors and law enforcement need to determine if Holbrook’s death was directly connected to the injuries he sustained in the beating.
“Usually what happens is if you charge with attempted murder or some kind of assault, and the individual dies as a result of the injuries sustained, you amend it upwards to a charge of murder,” he said. “If there’s a connection, it’s likely we’ll amend the charge.”
He said he would have to work with the prosecutor assigned to the case, Alvin Guzman, before commenting further.