Man faces murder charge in Kent home invasion

May 12 shooting on the West Hill

A 24-year-old Des Moines man faces charges of first-degree murder and second-degree assault after a home invasion turned deadly May 12 at a Kent West Hill home, just east of Interstate 5.

Reno Tofiga Vaitului allegedly fatally shot Dennis Wyatt, 46, in his chest, arm and leg and injured another man inside the home in the 24000 block of 35th Ave. S., with a metal pipe-like object, according to charging papers filed Monday by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He remains in custody in the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $2 million. He is scheduled to be arraigned on June 29 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Kent Police arrested Vaitului on June 10 outside of a Des Moines home.

“He (Vaitului) was the catalyst for the home invasion robbery that led to the shooting death of victim Wyatt,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney William Doyle in charging documents. “The defendant was the one who knew the victims and the residence. He used that knowledge and trust to work his way into the victims’ home, only to bring along two masked accomplices with guns and zip ties.”

The three men tied up two victims, a man and a woman, and when Wyatt walked downstairs in response to cries for help, his life was ended in a rain of gunfire, Doyle said. After one of victims cried out for help, Vaitului reportedly struck the man in the head with a metal pipe-like object. The man suffered a severe head wound, internal bleeding, two partially collapsed lungs and broken ribs.

Vaitului then took a laptop and marijuana before fleeing the home.

The two men and woman inside the home knew Vaitului from previous visits. The man who was injured bought a vehicle from Vaitului about a month prior to the invasion. Another man who was not home during the invasion told detectives he had known Vaitului for over six months.

Detectives eventually tracked down Vaitului in Des Moines. They used video surveillance to help connect Vaitului to a 1997 Cadillac Deville. A search warrant was obtained for the car. Police found a rifle in the vehicle as well as a mask and zip ties.

Vaitului told detectives during an interview that he went to the West Hill home to purchase some methamphetamine. He said he went outside to his car to get some cash and that two masked men followed him into the house. He claimed he was outside at the time of the shooting. He admitted the rifle found in the Cadillac belonged to him.

In 2013, Vaitului was convicted of second-degree robbery in King County Superior Court. He was prohibited from possessing firearm, so prosecutors also charged him with unlawful possession of a firearm in addition to the murder and assault charges.

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