A Kennewick man could spend 30 years in prison for nearly killing his girlfriend before he turned the knife on his brother, who was trying to stop the attack.
Rayfield Cole, 47, admitted stabbing the victims after learning that his girlfriend wanted to break up and needed him to move out of the apartment.
The two oldest daughters of the victim, Michelle Maldonado, tried to stop the attack, with one jumping on Cole’s back as the other used her body to shield her mother. The girls then ran next door to get help from his older brother, Phillmore Cole.
Phillmore Cole was stabbed as he attempted to take away the knife. He managed to distract Rayfield Cole, so that Maldonado and her three kids could get out of the apartment.
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In charging Rayfield Cole, prosecutors included a rarely used aggravator for committing a crime against a person acting as a Good Samaritan.
He pleaded guilty Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to one count each of first- and second-degree assault. Each count includes a domestic violence allegation and a deadly weapon enhancement.
He also admitted to aggravated domestic violence for stabbing Maldonado within sight or sound of her minor children, that the crime had a destructive impact on others, and that one of the victims was a Good Samaritan.
The first-degree assault charge was amended from attempted second-degree murder as part of the plea agreement.
He faces 14 years and 10 months to 19 years and eight months in prison, plus a mandatory three years on top for the deadly weapon enhancements.
The aggravating factors in the case allow prosecutors to ask for time above that range.
Deputy Prosecutor Kristin McRoberts said 30 years is the same amount of time that would have been recommended if Cole had pleaded guilty to attempted murder.
“As we’re going to argue at sentencing, the crime occurred in a very small apartment with those three little girls present. In fact, they all saw their mom being stabbed, and all three had blood on them when police got there,” McRoberts told the Herald.
“That, coupled with the fact the second victim tried to intervene and get her out of there and he was injured too, justifies more than the standard sentence,” she added.
Cole’s record includes felony convictions for second-degree child molestation and two counts of second-degree rape of a child.
McRoberts said Maldonado supported the amended charge, especially since it spares her daughters from having to testify at trial.
The trial was supposed to start Oct. 24.
After sleeping on the couch in the living room of her North Cleveland Street apartment, Maldonado awoke at 5:30 a.m. April 26 to get ready for work, according to court documents. She was getting some items out of the master bathroom when Cole grabbed her, started strangling her and pushed her onto the floor.
Maldonado screamed for help and tried to get away, but Cole grabbed a large knife and started stabbing her in the neck and torso.
Her 12-year-old heard the screams and ran into the master bedroom, followed by her 11-year-old. They found Cole sitting on top of their mother.
Her 7-year-old daughter also saw the attack.
Maldonado yelled at the girls to call 911. That’s when they got help from the attacker’s brother.
After Phillmore Cole forced open the bedroom door, Rayfield Cole said he was going to kill Maldonado and his brother. Phillmore Cole’s daughter lives in another apartment in the complex and came to the victims’ aid.
Rayfield Cole claimed he wanted to commit suicide, so his brother said he would retrieve a gun from his own apartment as a ruse to get away.
After police got Maldonado, her daughters, Phillmore Cole and his daughter out of the next-door apartment, Rayfield Cole locked his apartment and refused to leave.
Cole reportedly taped knives to each hand. He turned himself in about one hour later, and was treated for cuts on both of his wrists.
Maldonado was stabbed at least seven times and required emergency surgery for two punctured lungs and a lacerated liver.
Deputy Prosecutor McRoberts said first responders told her they were concerned Maldonado would die from her injuries.
Phillmore Cole was stabbed in the neck and the left hand. He’s had surgery to repair cut tendons in his hand, is still in occupational therapy and doesn’t have full movement of the hand, McRoberts said. He also suffered nerve damage from the neck wounds.
A hearing is set Nov. 10 to confirm the sentencing date.
Rayfield Cole remains in the Benton County jail on $500,000 bail.