Guilty Verdict In Shipyard Shooting Case

Guilty Verdict In Shipyard Shooting Case »Play Video
SEATTLE - A King County Superior Court jury Monday convicted Kevin Cruz of shooting two people to death and wounding two others at a Lake Union shipyard in November 1999.

Cruz, 32, of suburban SeaTac, was convicted of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. Cruz faces a sentence of either death or life in prison without possibility of release for the murder counts, with his fate to be decided during the penalty phase, planned later this month.

Defense lawyer Eric Lindell said he was disappointed, but confident the jury will spare Cruz's life once they learn more about him in the penalty phase. He also said he believed the verdict would be overturned on appeal, but when asked on what grounds, he would say only, "Many."

"I'm relieved, that's for sure," said Jim Brisendine, whose son, Russell Brisendine, was killed. He attended most of the trial with his wife, Rene, and said he wasn't surprised by the verdict.

"They had some good evidence and I don't think the defense had anything," Brisendine said. "Personally, I think he should get the death penalty. I hate to see it for his mother and sister, but I just think something needs to be done."

Cruz had no visible reaction to the verdict but Russell Brisendine's cousin, Marshall Brisendine, said: "This is the first time I haven't seen a smirking smile on his face."

Cruz's sister and mother wept after verdict.

"It's tough," Marshall Brisendine said. "Is there such a thing as closure in a case like this? I don't know."

Shooting victim Patrick Ming, now 21, said he was relieved by the verdict, but that the attack would be with him a long time.

"I got the easy part. I got shot," said Ming, who has a metal plate in his arm where the bone was shattered by a bullet. "People who lost loved ones, that was the hard part."

The case went to the jury Thursday.

During his trial, prosecutors alleged that Cruz harbored a grudge against the Northlake Shipyard because he never fit in there as an employee and because its insurance company initially refused to pay medical bills for a supposed injury he suffered on the job. Cruz was fired by the shipyard in early 1999.

Prosecutors said that on the morning of Nov. 3, 1999, Cruz walked into an office at the shipyard wearing a baseball hat and sunglasses. They alleged he fired 11 rounds, killing Peter Giles, 27, and Brisendine, 43, and wounding Jaromir Mach and Ming before walking out.

Police swarmed the residential neighborhood searching for a suspect.

They found none until two months later, when a mountain biker discovered a backpack in nearby Gasworks Park. The backpack, lined with foil, contained a camouflage jacket, a camouflage Budweiser bandanna, a holster and the murder weapon, among other items.

A DNA sample from the holster matched Cruz's, and he acknowledged during police questioning the bag was his. The 9 mm pistol was reported stolen from one of his friends a year earlier, and prosecutors said a bullet found in Cruz's bedroom had markings proving it had been cycled through the murder weapon.

His lawyers tried to poke holes in the state's arguments by saying the DNA evidence was mishandled by analysts, who didn't know whether one sample came from the holster or the bandanna.

They also stressed that neither of the survivors picked Cruz's picture out of a photo montage the day after the shootings.

Both, however, identified him as the shooter in court.

Asked whether he had any doubt that prosecutors had the right man, Ming said, "If I had to send him to the death chair based on my recognition, there would be."

But, he said, the rest of the evidence convinced him Cruz was the gunman. Ming said he hadn't thought about whether Cruz should be sentenced to death.

Cruz offered no alibi for the morning of the shootings, except to say that he was walking around Seattle.