A 16-year-old boy is accused of telling his friends which Kennewick home to target for a December burglary in which an elderly woman was taped to a recliner.
Ezekiel I. Salazar told police he had done household chores and yard work for the homeowner for about one year. That was when he was 13.
Then, in late 2016, Salazar allegedly served as a lookout after showing Laura Dunbar’s South Hawthorne Street home to brothers Jefferson and Luis Palomo Olmedo. The burglars stole firearms, jewelry and a safe.
“(Salazar) said Luis asked a lot of questions about Dunbar’s home because Luis wanted to make money,” court documents said.
On Wednesday, Salazar pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree burglary and theft of a firearm. He was joined in court by his mother and six friends. Trial is set for March 27. Bail was set at $75,000.
The case was automatically bumped up to adult court because of the nature of the felony charges and Salazar’s criminal history.
Salazar is the fourth suspect to be charged in the Dec. 18 home invasion. He has been cooperating with Kennewick investigators since they learned of his involvement, documents said.
All of the suspects are from Kennewick.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell described Salazar as a key player in the crime against the 73-year-old Dunbar, and unsuccessfully argued for $100,000 bail.
“The victim would not have been identified, would not have been subject to what happened to her, but for (Salazar) knowing her, identifying her and telling the other co-defendants involved what was in her house, which she is the only person who has that knowledge,” Howell said.
“We think that there is a serious risk for community safety.”
The case against Salazar was filed 1 1/2 months after Eric A. Rosas, 21, Jefferson Palomo Olmedo, 12, and Luis Palomo Olmedo, 14, were charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping and theft of a firearm.
Rosas’ charges include aggravating circumstances of victim vulnerability and deliberate cruelty.
The other three suspects have no prior felonies, Howell said. Salazar has two residential burglary convictions from 2016, along with a conviction for theft of a firearm. The prosecutor asked for Salazar to be held in the county jail and not juvenile detention.
Defense attorney Karla Kane Hudson, who was appointed in Superior Court to take over for juvenile defense attorney Alexis Rado, argued that her client came to court as requested and should be allowed to remain out of custody on his personal recognizance.
Kane Hudson said it seemed disingenuous to her that community safety was not a concern when Salazar was being cooperative with police, but once charges are filed and “they’ve gotten all the help they need from him,” then bail is requested.
Salazar is participating in crucial programming at the juvenile justice center every day from noon to 5 p.m., including working on his GED, and he meets frequently with his probation counselor, she said. He also has a curfew and police check on him at home at 9 p.m. and midnight.
“It’s vital to allow this child to continue his education so that, when this is behind him, he at least has a chance to succeed,” Kane Hudson said. “I think he sees some hope for his future. … All we’re asking is that he be given an opportunity to do that while he’s facing time.”
Howell replied that Salazar allegedly committed these crimes while on the most restrictive form of probation for his prior convictions.
And while Salazar may have been doing well in the two months since the home invasion, his probation officer advised that he has a history of failing to appear and running from law enforcement, Howell said.
Judge Cameron Mitchell agreed with the defense that programming available to Salazar at the juvenile facility can help him in the future regardless of the case outcome. He ruled that the teen could be held there, instead of the county jail.
The judge also said there is to be no contact, directly or indirectly, between Salazar and the Palomo Olmedo brothers while in juvenile detention.
The brothers both are awaiting a decision about whether they will be tried as adults or remain in Juvenile Court.
Rosas has a June 12 trial date in Superior Court.
Dunbar fell asleep in her chair about 5 p.m. Dec. 18 and later awoke to strangers trying to restrain her, according to police and court documents. Her wrists were taped together, her head and chest were taped to the chair, and her head was covered with a pillowcase.
She said the suspects told her to be quiet and called her a derogatory name. She then heard them run through her home, knock things over and open drawers before leaving after about a half hour.
Once Dunbar was sure her attackers were gone, she chewed through the duct tape and called 911. She had cuts on her hand, red marks on her wrists and dried blood near her mouth, and had to be treated at the hospital for heart issues that flared up during the incident.
Officers allegedly matched distinctive shoe prints left in the snowpack outside Dunbar’s home to prints found near a Columbia Drive trailer, where the Palomo Olmedo brothers were known to hang out.
The brothers and Rosas were arrested the following morning when police located a van with Dunbar’s stolen items visible inside.