A body was in the trunk of her car and this Tri-Cities woman never told police

Kennewick woman heading to prison for helping cover up murder

Guadalupe Sanchez pleads guilty in Franklin County Superior Court for rendering criminal assistance in the death of Michelle Hundall in 2018.
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Guadalupe Sanchez pleads guilty in Franklin County Superior Court for rendering criminal assistance in the death of Michelle Hundall in 2018.

The children of a 40-year-old West Richland woman killed on Mother’s Day 2018 shared on Tuesday how their lives continue to feel empty without her.

Michelle Hudnall left behind four kids when she was beaten and strangled and her body dumped into the Columbia River.

Her decomposed remains were found more than seven weeks later along the shoreline in north Pasco.

Tuesday, one suspects in her death was sentenced to prison for helping cover up the crime.

Guadalupe A. Sanchez, 28, pleaded guilty earlier this month in Franklin County Superior Court to first-degree rendering criminal assistance. The charge was reduced from second-degree murder.

Asked for maximum sentence

Even though only five months separated the bottom and the top of the standard sentencing range, Hudnall’s kids and other loved ones asked that Sanchez get the maximum time.

“My mom’s death has caused depression and anger. ... I live every day mad and sad,” Hudnall’s 15-year-old son said in a letter to the judge. “It brought me great darkness over my life. My mom meant the world to me and for them to take her away from me like that hurts bad.”

Her 12-year-old daughter touched on how Hudnall will never see her get married or have grandchildren.

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Michelle Hudnall had four kids, clockwise from top left, Corey, Iggy, Caden and Chloe. Courtesy of Joedie Lee Hosley

“I don’t know how you could of murdered my mother,” the daughter wrote in her letter. “I’ll never get to feel her hugs and kisses again. I miss her so much.”

Steven Hudnall, the victim’s brother, shared their sentiments.

“The defendant had many opportunities to do the right thing at many times during and after Michelle’s murder, “ he said. “Guadalupe Sanchez chose to put herself into this situation and took action to cover it up. She showed no mercy or compassion during or after the murder of Michelle.”

Sanchez already served 371 days

When Judge Carrie Runge announced she was following the recommended 1-year, 3-month term at the bottom of the range, Steven Hudnall motioned for a dozen family and friends to get up and immediately leave the courtroom.

One of Sanchez’s relatives, meanwhile, let out a gasp of apparent relief.

Sanchez, who has been in the Franklin County jail for 371 days, will be transferred to the state Department of Corrections, but likely will have to serve just 1 1/2 more months because of credit for good behavior.

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Benny Rodriguez Lozano Jr. is charged with murder in the death of Michelle Hudnall of West Richland. Tri-City Herald File

Her co-defendants, Benny Rodriguez Lozano Jr. and Florentino Jai Castillo, are scheduled to for a joint trial on Sept. 30. They both are charged with second-degree murder.

‘No amount of time’ will bring her back

Judge Runge said she doubted Michelle Hudnall’s family will ever feel justice has been served in this case.

“Sadly, no amount of time that I sentence you to Ms. Sanchez will bring Michelle back for these people who have expressed the horrible impact on them,” she said.

Hudnall, who grew up in Burbank, became a certified nursing assistant and worked as an in-home caregiver.

Pasco police and prosecutors said she was killed May 13 while riding around in her van with Lozano and Castillo. A witness told investigators that Lozano called Hudnall his girlfriend.

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Florentino Jai Castillo is charged in the murder of Michelle Hudnall, a West Richland mother found dead in the Columbia River in 2018. Tri-City Herald File

Sanchez’s car used in trip to river

After moving Hudnall’s body into a Pasco apartment and then to the trunk of Sanchez’s car, a group eventually drove north toward rural Franklin County and rolled the tarp-wrapped body down a steep embankment into the river, according to court documents.

Hudnall’s remains were found July 5 near Carbody Beach. Detectives said in addition to using her car to move the body, Sanchez failed to call police.

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Michelle Hudnall Joedie Lee Hosley

Hudnall’s mother, Daveitta Hudnall, and stepmother, Laquita Ralls, both repeatedly questioned Tuesday why Sanchez did not call 911 when she had the chance to get help or later to report where police could find her body.

“What was going on in your head that you, being a woman, wouldn’t help another woman?” said Daveitta Hudnall. “I don’t know if you are able to comprehend what you did to her friends and family. You took a piece of us with her. ... The pain of losing Michelle will never leave us.”

‘I did not murder her’

Attorney Shelley Ajax denied that her client was partying in a Pasco motel while Hudnall’s body was in the trunk of Sanchez’s car.

Hudnall was murdered “well before my client could have been possibly aware,” she said.

Ajax said there is a huge difference in taking another person’s life and in being caught up in the aftermath doing things under duress and by force. The latter is what happened to Sanchez, she said.

“All I have to say is I’m sorry for all this,” said Sanchez. “I did not murder her. That is all I can say.”

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Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.