Ibarra Valencia pleads guilty to Royal City murder

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Richard Byrd/Columbia Basin Herald Eduardo Ibarra Valencia is escorted out of a Grant County courtroom Monday morning.

EPHRATA — A Royal City man entered guilty pleas on Monday in connection with a 2015 shooting at a Royal City business that left one dead and another injured.

Eduardo Ibarra Valencia pleaded guilty in Grant County Superior Court to second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Each of the charges includes a firearm enhancement. The second-degree murder charges carries with it a standard sentencing range between 12 and 20.3 years. The attempted second-degree murder charge has a standard range between nine and 15.25 years. The firearm enhancements carry five-year sentences apiece.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 22 as the Department of Corrections completes a Pre-sentence Investigation Report. The report will serve as background information on Ibarra Valencia for a judge to take into consideration before imposing a sentence, Prosecutor Garth Dano told the Columbia Basin Herald.

Ibarra Valencia was initially charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the November 2015 homicide of 49-year-old Quincy resident Joel Rodriguez and injury shooting of a Soap Lake man at Callahan Manufacturing in Royal City.

Court proceedings were put on hold after the initial charges were filed as Ibarra Valencia underwent an evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial. The defendant was declared competent, but he was returned to Eastern State Hospital for further evaluation of potential mental defenses.

The state had concerns that if the case were to proceed to trial, Ibarra Valencia would be acquitted on the grounds of insanity or diminished capacity. As a result, prosecutors sought to amend the charges to first-degree manslaughter, with a firearm enhancement, and one count of attempted first-degree manslaughter.

Amending charges requires approval from a judge and Judge John Knodell denied the state’s motion, stating, among other things, that diminished capacity is not a viable defense when it comes to Ibarra Valencia’s case. In a written ruling the judge said no expert had reached the conclusion that Ibarra Valencia was not able to form specific intent when the crimes were committed.

Knodell said an insanity defense is also not viable because Ibarra Valencia did not enter an insanity plea in writing within 10 days of his arraignment, which is required by Washington's court rules. Knodell said even if Ibarra Valencia does suffer from “one or more mental illnesses and from delusions,” they did not prevent him from comprehending that he shot two people and that the actions he took were criminal in nature.

Court records indicate Ibarra Valencia’s girlfriend told investigators he had been dealing with depression for a while before the shooting and “regularly” acted paranoid and thought people were out to get or kill him. She said he told her he was having trouble at work with his coworkers, but didn’t confide to her whom he was having trouble with. About eight days before the shooting Ibarra Valencia showed a coworker a .40 caliber handgun and told him he had the gun for protection.

The victim from Soap Lake told investigators Ibarra Valencia was walking around Callahan Manufacturing “acting nervous” on the day of the shooting and walked up to Rodriguez and shot him with a semi-automatic weapon. The victim said he start running and that was when Ibarra Valencia shot him twice in the back and once in the arm.

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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