YAKIMA, Wash. — At the scene, Adam Powell told police his girlfriend shot herself. At trial, he told jurors he had lied and that what really happened is that the gun went off during a struggle.
Either way, the Yakima County jury of seven men and five women didn’t buy it, deliberating barely 2½ hours — including lunchtime — before convicting the Tieton man of second-degree murder for the Oct. 23, 2010, shooting death of Sabrina Flores.
After the verdict, deputy prosecutor Alvin Guzman said Powell, 33, faces a minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years under state sentencing guidelines plus five years for a firearms enhancement.
Because the jury found Powell guilty of an additional domestic violence aggravator, the court could go beyond the guidelines.
Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 22. An appeal is likely.
The jury rejected the more serious charge of first-degree premeditated murder. Flores, 28, died from a gunshot wound to the head at the rented duplex she shared with Powell in Tieton.
In closing arguments Monday morning, Guzman contended Powell shot Flores because she was going to leave him and then tried to stage the scene to look like a suicide.
Although Powell testified that he had actually tried to disarm Flores and lied about it being a suicide, Guzman argued the physical evidence — including the head wound, blood spatter and the position of the body — didn’t mesh with any of the defendant’s versions.
He reminded the jury of witness testimony suggesting Powell and Flores had an abusive relationship, with Powell the foul-mouthed and disrespectful aggressor.
And he reminded the jury of a cellmate who testified that Powell coldly boasted that he had virtually executed Flores with his .40-caliber pistol for trying to leave him.
“What added up to this being an accident or a suicide, other than his testimony? Nothing,” Guzman said.
Powell’s attorney, Greg Scott, conceded his client lied, but only at the beginning because he knew it would look bad that he and Flores had been struggling for control of the gun.
Scott argued the physical evidence didn’t disprove his client’s claim that it really was an accident or suicide.
“It happened awfully fast,” Scott said. “They fell. The gun went off ... Every single piece (of evidence) fits. This was an accident.”
But Guzman countered that the struggle for control was not for the gun.
“He didn’t love her,” Guzman said. “He just wanted to control her.”
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.