King County prosecutors have filed murder charges against two men suspected of killing and dismembering a 16-year-old boy in Auburn last month, then leaving his body in the Green River.
Rudy Osvaldo Garcia-Hernandez, 28, and Carlos Orlando Iraheta-Vega, 20, were charged Friday with premeditated first-degree murder, according to charging documents. Both men are being held in King County Jail in lieu of $3 million bail.
Prosecutors allege the men lured Juan Carlos Con Guzman, a student at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, from his home to fight on Sept. 10, then drove to a remote location near the river “with a plan to torture and kill him,” according to charges.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mary Barbosa wrote in the charges that the suspects beat Con Guzman with a baseball bat before hitting him repeatedly with a machete and dismembering him. “The extraordinary brutality of this crime demonstrates the threat the defendants pose to the community,” she wrote.
Detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office said the suspects have claimed to be members of the transnational gang MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, which was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees from El Salvador and has been linked to slayings in certain parts of the U.S.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has used the case, as well as a recent violent crimes in Bellevue and Seattle, to criticize King County officials for their policy to not abide by ICE detainers without a judicial warrant, as ICE said Iraheta-Vega is an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador.
In a statement Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine pushed back against what he described as ICE’s “public relations offensive” by contacting local media outlets regarding suspects who are undocumented immigrants.
“ICE is fully aware that if they present a valid criminal warrant issued by a U.S. District Court Judge or Magistrate, the county would comply,” Constantine said.
According to the charges:
Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a body in the Green River in Auburn on Sept. 10. They found a large amount of blood leading to Con Guzman’s submerged body.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Con Guzman died of a combination of blunt-force injuries to the head and cutting injuries to his neck. The boy, who was just a few weeks shy of 17, had been reported missing. His parents said he came home from work around 2 a.m. the morning he was killed and left shortly after.
Detectives obtained surveillance footage from multiple locations that showed Con Guzman get into a car near his home, which made a stop at a Federal Way apartment building before heading east on Highway 18.
Detectives said they spoke to the victim’s friends, who told them he had a friend who was an MS-13 gang member. Detectives found Iraheta-Vega, who they said matched the description and claimed to be an MS-13 member, on Facebook. Detectives had reached out to some of Iraheta-Vega’s friends when he contacted detectives and said he wanted to meet on Monday.
According to detectives, Iraheta-Vega said he told the victim to come outside to fight and settle a dispute, then picked up Garcia-Hernandez, who he identified as an MS-13 member, and headed to the river. He told detectives they had a fist fight and that Garcia-Hernandez pulled out a short machete after and began hacking Con Guzman’s neck.
Detectives said Iraheta-Vega then showed them the location of a machete, which he claimed Garcia-Hernandez buried after washing the blade, according to charges.
Detectives interviewed a witness who gave a similar story, but added that Iraheta-Vega beat the victim with a baseball bat. Iraheta-Vega was arrested Tuesday and told detectives he did strike the victim with a bat, according to charges.
Detectives said they found a machete in his room that had what appeared to be blood on the blade, according to charges.
The next day, Garcia-Hernandez was arrested after a brief encounter with deputies during which they said he pulled out a gun. Deputies opened fire but didn’t strike him.
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