Arraignments rescheduled for two men charged with triple murder near Kent

Two men charged with the shooting deaths of three Pierce County men whose bodies were found in March at a nursery in unincorporated Kent had their scheduled arraignments Thursday rescheduled for June 2.

Stephanie Mendoza

Stephanie Mendoza

Two men charged with the shooting deaths of three Pierce County men whose bodies were found in March at a nursery in unincorporated Kent had their scheduled arraignments Thursday rescheduled for June 2.

Defense attorneys for Jose Alfredo Velez-Fombona, 25, of Kent, and co-defendant Alberto Avila-Cardenas, 36, of Lakewood, wanted more time before having their clients enter pleas, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in a phone interview Thursday. The two men are scheduled to return to the King County Courthouse in Seattle to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. June 2 in courtroom 1201.

Velez-Fombona and Avila-Cardenas have been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. They remain in custody at the county jail in Seattle with bail set at $10 million.

Prosecutors claim Velez-Fombona and Avila-Cardenas are responsible for the deaths on Dec. 12 of Jesus Bejar-Avila, 25, Yazmani Quezada-Ortiz, 26 and Cristian Alberto Rangel, 19.

The mother and sister of Quezada-Ortiz showed up in court for the scheduled arraignment. Each defendant made brief, separate appearances in court dressed in white jail jumpsuits with the words “KCJ Ultra High Security” printed on the back.

The murder charges include firearm enhancements. If convicted as charged, each defendant faces a sentence range of 75 to 95 years in prison.

Detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office and the Lakewood Police continue to investigate the case. It is possible a third man also was involved in the kidnapping and murders, according to court documents. Detectives believe the Kent man and at least one other man picked up Avila-Cardenas at his home the morning of Dec. 12 in Lakewood.

The bodies of the three men were found March 10 by an employee of Rainier Nursery near the West Valley Highway, in the 26200 block of 65th Avenue South. The three men had been shot in the head and then buried.

The motive for the killings appears to be connected with a shooting in Lakewood that resulted in the death of two people and a foot injury to Avila-Cardenas, according to charging papers. It is believed that a cousin of Quezada-Ortiz may have been the shooter in the incident.

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