An investigation into a Pasco kidnapping and extortion case has uncovered another victim and landed another suspect in jail.
The first two men arrested -- Sunnyside residents Alejandro Valle Vasquez and David Gomez, both 24 -- are expected to enter pleas todayn Franklin County Superior Court.
Both are charged with first-degree kidnapping for allegedly putting a Kennewick man in the trunk of a car in Pasco and demanding money from him over a stolen car, police and prosecutors said.
Valle Vasquez, who also uses the name Alejandro Jimenez, and Gomez are being held on $1 million bail.
A third suspect, Maurico Hernandez, 38, of Pasco, is being held in the Franklin County jail after his arrest last week on suspicion of first-degree kidnapping.
Pasco police detectives found a second victim who said he met Hernandez at a home in the 1100 block of Hopkins Street to try to sell his vehicle, but then was confronted at gunpoint by a man named "Colima," who police identified as Valle Vasquez, court documents said.
Hernandez is said to the be link between the two victims who don't know each other, said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.
"He is in fact the one that joins this case together," Sant said. "I believe he's very involved in this case ... and there's a very good likelihood that there could be more victims out there."
Attorney Joseph Ramirez argued in court Friday that Hernandez should be released on his own recognizance. Ramirez said he hadn't been hired to represent Hernandez, but Hernandez did seek him out for a consultation.
Ramirez also went with Hernandez to the Pasco police station after Hernandez learned from neighbors that officers wanted to talk to him.
Ramirez said Hernandez voluntarily agreed to meet with Detective Kirk Nebeker, who questioned Hernandez, then arrested him.
"I was dumbfounded. I said give us a court date and we will show up," Ramirez told Judge Cameron Mitchell on Friday. "I think he got double-crossed. If he was going to run, he would have never met with me in the first place."
Ramirez said Hernandez is not a flight risk, and noted that Hernandez's wife and son, who is a senior at Pasco High, were in the courtroom.
Mitchell said the $500,000 bail requested by Sant was appropriate based on the possible danger to the community.
He said it appears Hernandez "does pose a very grave danger to the community beyond just the alleged victims that have been identified."
According to court documents, Nebeker began investigating the case Jan. 5 after the 37-year-old victim reported he had been abducted while dropping off a car for an acquaintance he knew only as "Mauricio."
The victim said he was thrown in the trunk of a gray or silver Chrysler 300 and his wrists were bound with gray duct tape and tied with yellow rope, documents said.
He was reportedly taken to a dairy farm in Sunnyside, where Valle Vasquez and Gomez allegedly threatened to kill him if he didn't pay them or give them the title to a 1999 Hyundai he had dropped off.
Valle Vasquez, known to the victim as "Colima," was the passenger, documents said. Gomez, known to the victim as "Fierro," was the driver of the Chrysler 300, documents said.
The victim said he was taken to two different locations where the suspects said they were going to kill him, but the property owners said they didn't want the murder to happen on their property, documents said.
He managed to convince them to release him with a promise to pay.
Valle Vasquez and Gomez were arrested after they were spotted in the area near where the victim was kidnapped, documents said.
The victim took Nebeker to an alley near the Hopkins Street home he said was being used as a chop shop and said several stolen cars partially covered by tarps were in the backyard.
Nebeker wrote in court documents that his view was limited through the wood fence, but there were several vehicles in the yard covered by tarps.
On Jan. 9, Nebeker met with another victim who said he went to an alley near the Pasco library to buy a vehicle from a man he only knew as "Mauricio," documents said.
The man gave the same description as the first victim about the Hopkins Street home. He told police he met Hernandez at the house and left his car in the alley, documents said.
He went inside for about three minutes and felt uneasy when Hernandez told him someone was breaking into his car outside, documents said. The victim said he thinks that was a ruse to set him up, but he eventually went outside and was confronted by Valle Vasquez, documents said.
The victim claimed that Valle Vasquez was armed with an assault rifle and tried to order him to get into his car, but the victim was ultimately able to escape and drive away, documents said.
Valle Vasquez allegedly fired one round from his assault rifle, striking the passenger door behind the victim, documents said.
When Nebeker inspected the victim's car, a bullet hole was found, along with a shattered bullet lodged on the inside of the door in the thick metal by the hinges, documents said.
Investigators performed tests on the bullet's trajectory and determined that if it had continued, it would have hit the victim in the area of his left kidney, documents said.
When Hernandez and his attorney met with Nebeker, Hernandez said he was threatened by Valle Vasquez but denied being involved in the kidnapping of the first victim, documents said. He also denied knowing the second man.
Nebeker said it appears Hernandez, a mechanic, acted as the bait through his vehicle services to lure the victims to the location for Valle Vasquez and Gomez to kidnap and extort for money, documents said.
Prosecutors have until Wednesday to charge Hernandez. If charged, his next court appearance is set for Jan. 24.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org