KENNEWICK, Wash. – A woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the woman's baby out of the womb pleaded not guilty Thursday, as prosecutors consider whether to seek the death penalty.
Phiengchai Sisouvanh Synhavong, 23, of Kennewick, Wash., is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the June 27 slaying of Araceli Camacho Gomez of Pasco. Camacho Gomez, 27, had been stabbed and her baby had been cut from her body.
Under state law, the only two possible punishments for Sisouvanh Synhavong, if convicted, are death or life in prison without parole. With the arraignment Thursday, Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller now has 30 days to decide whether he will seek the death penalty.
A pretrial hearing is set for Aug. 6 and the trial for Aug. 25.
The baby boy was in serious condition at a hospital in Spokane. Camacho Gomez's husband, Juan Campos-Gomez, who was in court Thursday, said he plans to take his wife's body back to Mexico to be buried as soon as it is released.
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about Sisouvanh Synhavong. She graduated from Southridge High in 2004 and was credentialed as a nursing assistant by the state Department of Health in 2005. Avalon Health and Rehabilitation Center in Pasco hired her on Sept. 2 of that year.
According to her nursing assistant credential application, the woman answered "no" to questions about drug use, sex offenses or other criminal charges, acts of moral turpitude or dishonesty.
Her nursing assistant credential expired at the end of 2007, but Sisouvanh Synhavong applied for renewal on March 14, 2008. Her credentials haven't yet been renewed.
Sisouvanh Synhavong also was employed by Chesterfield Services Inc., where she was matched with a West Richland family who needed in-home care for one of their disabled children.
M.J. Bishop said Sisouvanh Synhavong cared for his then-5-year-old son for about a year in 2004-05. She stopped working for them when she left Chesterfield, though he called her one of the better caregivers he ever had.
"I did everything in my power to stop her (from leaving)," he said. "She became family, that's how close she got to us. She was a warm, sensitive person. ... When she worked for us, I trusted her. I would have trusted her with my own life."