A federal jury trial expected to begin this month in the slaying of five people near White Swan has been rescheduled for the spring of 2020.
But so far, it’s not a murder trial.
Dennis Overacker, 61, John Cagle, 59, Michelle Starnes, 51, Catherine Eneas, 49, and Thomas Hernandez, 36, were killed in the June 8 shooting rampage just west of White Swan on the Yakama reservation.
Lindell LaFollette, 60, and Esmerelda Zaragoza were also shot but lived to tell the story.
Initially, a complaint was entered in federal court seeking assault charges against the Clouds in the murders. Later, a superseding indictment only sought charges of assault, kidnapping, carjacking, and brandishing a firearm in a violent crime.
But that could change by the time the Clouds’ trial gets underway April 27.
Federal prosecutors say they intend to enter evidence linking the Clouds to the murders. They filed notice Sept. 10 of their intent to provide more evidence.
“The government intends to introduce evidence to show that the kidnappings and carjacking at Evans Road, and the homicides at Medicine Valley, were both connected by the defendants,” the intent said.
Federal authorities have taken jurisdiction in the case because it occurred on tribal land held in federal trust and the suspects are Native American.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman George Jacobs didn’t return phone calls seeking comment about the case.
Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic said it’s not unusual for some charges to be delayed in cases until more evidence is gathered.
“It all comes down to evidence,” he said. “So any jurisdiction, any agency looking to file charges — it’s not what you believe happened; it’s what you can prove.”
Sometimes prosecutors will file lesser charges they know can be proved while gathering more evidence to secure more serious charges, he said.
“Waiting on toxicology reports, ballistics reports can lead to amended charges,” he said. “Even when a case is in trial, charges can still be amended.”
The Clouds are accused of taking a car from a family a few miles away while holding a gun to a child’s head not long after the shootings. The initial complaint accused them of taking the car to escape the area after the shootings.
Allegedly, the Clouds left the murder scene with the Jacksons in a car they took from the property where Cagle lived, the initial charges said.
When the car broke down several miles away, the Jackson and the Clouds parted ways. That’s when the Clouds took the second car from a nearby family, the initial complaint said.
Morris Jackson tossed a .22-caliber rifle he was carrying into a nearby canal, and a witness helped investigators retrieve it, according to an indictment. He has been charged with being a felon in possession of a gun. His trial has been scheduled for March 16.