Suspects in Sunnyside man’s death held on $1M bail

June 25, 2013 

— A man and a woman accused of killing a 23-year-old Sunnyside man over the weekend made their first appearances in court Monday. Separately, authorities ruled another man’s death this past weekend a homicide.

That brings Yakima County’s homicide total to at least nine, not counting a recent third suspicious death, which appears likely to fall in the same category.

Elliot Leroy White, 22, of Toppenish and Guillermina Sanchez-Cardenas, 20, of Sunnyside, were ordered held on $1 million bail each during an appearance in Yakima County Superior Court, where authorities say they could face second-degree murder charges. The pair is under investigation in the death of Alberto Gabriel Martinez, who was found dead Friday in the trunk of a car south of Toppenish.

In an autopsy Monday, Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins determined Martinez died of multiple small-caliber gunshot wounds to the head.

In a separate autopsy Monday, Hawkins said 20-year-old Pedro Marquez-Villa also died of multiple small-caliber gunshot wounds to the head. Marquez-Villa, last known to be living in Whatcom County, was found Saturday just outside the city limits of Toppenish. The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office released his name Monday after being unable to locate any relatives.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a medical examiner contracted by the state was scheduled Monday to begin an autopsy on burned human remains found June 18 near Sunnyside in a charred Chevrolet Chevelle registered to 22-year-old Preston Yahne, a 2009 Prosser High School graduate who has been missing since June 16, Hawkins said.

An identification on that body should be announced by the end of the week, Hawkins said.

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating that incident as a homicide as well, but aren’t ready to make a final determination.

As for Martinez, investigators blamed his death on romantic jealousy, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed with Yakima County Superior Court.

Cellphone records and statements by Martinez’s family led detectives to suspect he set off Thursday to visit Sanchez-Cardenas, even though he thought it was a “setup,” the affidavit said. She was arrested Saturday.

Sanchez-Cardenas told investigators that White, her boyfriend, was jealous that she was talking to another man and “became angry,” the affidavit said. She then told authorities the couple, as well as two other unnamed people, drove to the same remote area along U.S.

Highway 97 where Martinez was found, though she denied involvement in his death, the affidavit said.

A law enforcement officer found both of them in the area Thursday night and gave them a ride, the document said.

A Yakama Nation Tribal Police officer found Martinez on Friday in the trunk of a 1998 Honda Civic on Oak Springs Road off Highway 97 south of Toppenish.

The vehicle was registered to his girlfriend, but Yakima County Chief of Detectives Stew Graham said Monday that she is not considered a suspect in the death.

Martinez was not wearing shoes when he was found, the affidavit said.

Authorities caught up to White on Sunday after a Toppenish police officer responding to a report of a car theft at East Second Street and Division Avenue recognized him, the affidavit said.

White led police on a brief chase, crashed into a tree and ran away on foot before numerous officers formed a perimeter and arrested him, the affidavit said. He was wearing shoes belonging to Martinez, the affidavit said.

White also is being held on investigation for possession of a stolen vehicle and eluding.

White had been released on $50,000 bail earlier this month while waiting to resolve a stolen-vehicle charge that was filed last year.

In 2010, White pleaded guilty to two robbery charges, possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen vehicle.

The package deal gave him a 38-month total prison sentence.

Sanchez-Cardenas has several juvenile incidents, including two misdemeanor assault convictions, on her court record.

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