An Idaho farmworker was killed. His alleged shooter no longer faces charges

A man who allegedly killed his coworker in 2019 is no longer facing charges after the court found him mentally incompetent to stand trial because of a dementia diagnosis.

Rene Jaramillo Navarrete, now 63, was charged with second-degree murder and enhanced use of a deadly weapon after allegedly shooting 45-year-old Fortino Quebrado Antunez multiple times while working with him in an onion field outside of Caldwell.

In October, Canyon County 3rd District Judge Matthew J. Roker dismissed the two felony charges because of Jaramillo Navarrete’s rapidly progressing dementia.

“The court is convinced that the defendant’s lack of mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him and his own defense will continue to regress without reasonable hope of restoration,” Roker said in the order.

In Idaho, defendants cannot declare an insanity plea, meaning people who are deemed mentally incompetent must seek treatment before facing trial. But in Jaramillo Navarrete’s case, the irreversible dementia that he developed just three years after the incident makes the competency restoration treatment unlikely, his defense attorney Thomas Monagan told the Idaho Statesman.

Monagan said in a phone interview that the defense team did not see the dismissal of the charges as a victory.

“We had vigorously asserted that Mr. Jaramillo had acted in self-defense, and we were well-equipped to present that defense to a jury,” he said. “We wanted our day in court, and it was a great disappointment to us that he became too ill to proceed because we fully expected to prevail.”

Monagan said Jaramillo Navarrete developed dementia after the alleged shooting.

“He was clearly not the same,” Monagan said. “It was definitely a progressive situation where the dementia was getting worse over time.”

After the charges were dropped, Monagan said Jaramillo Navarrete was taken to live with his family.

Farmworker killed in onion field

On the morning of July 5, 2019, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call from Antunez’s then-17-year-old daughter, who was working alongside her mother and father in an onion field near the intersection of Upper Pleasant Ridge and Beet roads.

Antunez’s daughter, identified as J.K.Q. in official court documents, told authorities that her father had been shot multiple times after having a discussion with Jaramillo Navarrete.

While she and her father took a break from work, she said she heard Jaramillo Navarrete and her father speak in Spanish and then heard gunshots. She said she turned to see Jaramillo Navarrete shoot her father and ran at him to get him to stop shooting.

According to court documents, Jaramillo Navarrete ran to his vehicle to flee while continuing to shoot Antunez, who lay on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds. Antunez’s daughter took photos of Jaramillo Navarrete’s vehicle as he fled the scene.

Jaramillo Navarrete’s wife and daughter were also at the scene at the time of the incident. Both women told detectives that they did not know Jaramillo Navarrete had a firearm, but knew about the disagreement between him and Antunez that day.

Authorities located and arrested Jaramillo Navarrete in Nampa less than an hour after the shooting took place. Detectives found a semi-automatic pistol in the passenger seat of his vehicle.

Jaramillo Navarrete told detectives that he wore his gun every day to work for self-defense, and that Antunez threatened to fight him. Jaramillo Navarrete said he shot Antunez an unknown number of times because he feared for his life, according to court documents. He told detectives he fled the scene to cash checks to leave his family before he turned himself in.

Victim’s family disappointed

Olga Quebrado, Antunez’s niece, told the Statesman in a phone interview that her family is disappointed with the court’s dismissal of the case.

Quebrado said her cousin, Antunez’s daughter, has struggled with depression since witnessing her father get fatally shot and has sought counseling.

“She feels like justice was not done at all, in regards to her dad and her family,” Quebrado said of her cousin. “She experienced this and even testified that the man pointed a gun at her.”

Quebrado said her uncle was originally from Guerrero, Mexico, and moved to the United States with the goal to provide a better life for his family.

“He was always joking around, and he liked to dance at family gatherings,” she said. “He was the one to dance with his wife and have a good time. He was definitely loud because he did like to be heard, but he was never violent.”

Quebrado said Jaramillo Navarrete brutally killed her uncle, whom she described as 4-foot-9 and harmless.

“He took a life that was supporting his family,” she said of Jaramillo Navarrete. “He took a life for no reason whatsoever. Like as much of a disagreement that you have with somebody, you don’t just pull out a gun on somebody and shoot them multiple times.”