James Reha is arraigned on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in Pierce County Superior Court. Peter Haley phaley@thenewstribune.com
James Reha is arraigned on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in Pierce County Superior Court. Peter Haley phaley@thenewstribune.com

Crime

Woman fatally shot in Tacoma was prowling car of suspected shooter, police say

November 23, 2016 01:19 PM

UPDATED November 25, 2016 10:06 AM

A 23-year-old woman shot in the back of the head while driving in Tacoma was killed by a drunken man whose car she was prowling, according to court records

Police initially could not figure out why someone fired several shots into the back of Morgan Deines’ Lexus SUV on Nov. 11.

Deines was found about 2:30 a.m. in the driver’s seat, suffering from a gunshot wound to the back of her head. She later died at a hospital.

On Wednesday, Pierce County prosecutors charged James Reha, 28, with second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

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He was arraigned Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set his bail at $1 million.

Charging papers gave this account:

Deines and an unnamed friend were prowling cars near North Seventh and North Junett streets when they found Reha asleep in his car.

They opened the driver’s door and stole his cellphone. Then they saw the trunk was open and started to remove some speakers.

Reha woke up and confronted Deines and the other man.

They saw Reha “reach into the passenger compartment of the vehicle and felt that he was reaching for a gun,” according to charging papers.

Deines’ accomplice took off running toward Sixth Avenue.

Deines got in her car and pulled out of the parking lot in an apparent attempt to flee.

The accomplice heard several gunshots. After Deines was wounded, her car continued for about a block and came to rest against another vehicle.

Witnesses spotted a man later identified as Reha “acting strange, running around and climbing into a gray car that was still parked in the parking lot,” records show.

He then was seen running down an alley before returning to his car.

By the time police arrived, Reha was walking away. Officers tried to speak with him on Sixth Avenue but he ran before being taken into custody.

He told detectives he’d just left a bar and was searching for his friends because they had the keys to his car.

“He said he did not recall where his car was parked because he was drunk” according to charging papers.

A stolen 10mm handgun later was found hidden under a recycle bin where Reha was seen after the shooting. Police said the gun matched four shell casings found in the parking lot where Deines was shot.

As the investigation continued, police interviewed Reha again and arrested him Tuesday.

Police also interviewed the accomplice, who told them about the car prowling and what happened next. He has not been arrested.

Reha has prior convictions for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, burglary and second-degree theft, according to Superior Court records.

Deines does not have a local criminal record.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653