Convicted Pasco murderer still owes legal fees

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldMarch 29, 2014 

Pedro Mendez-Reyna.jpg

Pedro Mendez-Reyna

SUPPLIED PHOTO

PASCO -- A convicted murderer spending life in prison for his role in the Tri-Cities' most notorious killing spree will have to continue to pay legal fees.

Pedro Mendez-Reyna is serving life plus 20 years for a grisly auto body shop shooting in Pasco in 1987. The shooting left five men, all in their early 20s, dead and a sixth man injured.

Mendez-Reyna asked a Franklin County judge to wipe out his financial obligations in the case because they were creating a hardship for him in prison.

Judge Vic VanderSchoor denied the request, ruling that the money the state is allowed to take from Mendez-Reyna's prison account does not create a hardship or leave him indigent.

Mendez-Reyna was ordered to pay legal fees after he pleaded guilty to the killings in 1994 to avoid facing the death penalty. He is serving his sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Mendez-Reyna argued in a written motion that he has no income to help pay off the fees and will never be released from prison.

"I have family but they have financial problems themselves and are not able to help me at all," Mendez-Reyna wrote. "The legal financial burden is hard for me to pay and the future is no better for me to pay the large amount of legal financial obligations."

The state is allowed to collect 20 percent of Mendez-Reyna's wages from his prison account to pay off the fees. The state can collect money only as long as it doesn't bring the account "below the level of indigence," court documents said.

Court documents show the only efforts the state is making to collect money from Mendez-Reyna is by taking money from his personal prison account.

The amount that he owes was not immediately available.

Franklin County prosecutors argued that Mendez-Reyna is in the same position as most inmates with legal fees who are incarcerated.

"It is simply not true that a person in this defendant's position is suffering financial hardship," Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny said in court documents.

Mendez-Reyna was arrested in Texas six years after the shootings.

The six men were working in the shop when Mendez-Reyna and his cousin gunned them down. There has never been a clear motive for the shooting, but drug trafficking and gun running may have been involved, investigators said.

Mendez-Reyna's cousin, Vicente Ruiz, also was convicted. Ruiz, who was arrested 19 years after the murders, has maintained he wasn't present when the shootings happened. He is serving a life sentence.

The murders gained national attention and led to Pasco hiring more police officers and cracking down on drug trafficking.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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