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Jury selection continues today for man, 19, standing trial in Siloam Springs murder case

by Tracy Neal | September 13, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Francisco Ochoa

BENTONVILLE -- Opening statements and testimony were expected to begin Tuesday in the murder trial for a Gentry man accused of killing one person and injuring another in a 2021 shooting in Siloam Springs.

Francisco Ochoa, 19, is charged with capital murder, unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, terroristic act, battery, and two counts of aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He's accused of shooting and killing Kathrine Pembleton on June 25, 2021. She was pronounced dead at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital. The other victim, a 17-year-old girl, was taken to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, where she was treated and released, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Nine people were selected Monday to serve on the jury. Jury selection was to resume Tuesday, with opening statements starting after the jury is seated.

Joshua Robinson, senior deputy prosecutor, questioned prospective jurors about whether they could be fair and impartial in the case. He also asked about their contact with law enforcement.

Robinson asked about their feelings about sentencing a person who was a juvenile to life imprisonment. Some prospective jurors disagreed with the punishment for juveniles.

Ochoa, who is free on $750,000 bond, was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, but prosecutors charged him as an adult. Benton County Circuit Judge Robin Green previously denied a request to transfer Ochoa's case to juvenile court.

Kent McLemore, Ochoa's attorney, also questioned potential jurors about his client's ethnicity, the growth in Benton County and the uptick in crime and whether their opinions would impact them serving on the jury.

McLemore said his client's defense is he didn't know the shooting would take place and the jury had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt Ochoa wanted the shooting to happen.

A woman called 911 just before midnight on June 25, 2021, saying her daughter's friends had been shot at 817B Whiterock St. in Siloam Springs, according to the probable cause affidavit. The woman's 17-year-old daughter told police a woman she identified as Karla Martinez had been arguing with a friend over some clothing.

Another 17-year-old girl told police she, Pembleton and the other shooting victim were sitting on the tailgate of a pickup outside the home when a car drove by without its lights on, then turned around. While passing the home again, someone in the car fired four to six shots, according to the affidavit.

Police searched Ochoa's car and found numerous shell casings appearing to be of the same brand as a casing found at the shooting scene, according to the affidavit.

Martinez, 20, of Decatur, is charged as an accomplice with murder in the first degree, unlawful discharge of firearm from a vehicle, terroristic act and battery, along with hindering apprehension or prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Martinez told police she and Ochoa went to the Whiterock Street house together the night of June 25 and were there for some time. She said Ochoa pulled out a gun as they were leaving, according to the affidavit.

Martinez is being held in lieu of $200,000 bond in the Benton County Jail. Her jury trial is scheduled to begin March 11.

Ochoa faces 10 to 40 years or life in prison for the firearm and terroristic act charges. The battery charge is punishable with prison time ranging from five to 20 years, and each of the assault charges could bring up to six years in prison.

Print Headline: Jury selection underway in Siloam Springs murder case


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