Special Reports

Pedro Mendez-Reyna urges cousin to surrender

Give yourself up.

Pedro Mendez-Reyna, who admitted Friday he helped kill five men in Pasco in 1987, said in a jail-cell interview afterward that's the best advice he can give his cousin, who remains at large.

"I know it is very hard to always be on the run. For the past years, I have never had a single moment of rest. I've always had to look over my shoulder," Mendez-Reyna said in Spanish during a phone interview Friday evening.

"The other advice I have for him is to avoid getting into any kind of further trouble because he may just end up in the same situation he was in (seven years ago). Everything can be settled simply by talking to one another," he said.

Mendez-Reyna, 31, pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

He was charged in connection with the Oct. 13, 1987, shootings of six men in a Pasco auto body shop. Only one man, Aldo Montes, survived.

Mendes-Reyna's cousin, Vicente Ruiz who is two years younger, also has been charged in the slayings but remains at large.

"The last time I saw my cousin was about five years ago, when we were living in Colima, Mexico. I haven't heard of him since," he said.

Mendez-Reyna said in court and in the phone interview he decided to plead guilty because he wanted the truth to be told. He said he went to the shop with his cousin after Ruiz was confronted earlier in the day at a Pasco restaurant by men who were at the shop. The men supposedly had displayed guns.

After the murders, the cousins escaped to Mexico. Eventually, Mendez-Reyna kept returning to the United States, especially this area, to visit family.

"I knew some day I was going to get caught and there were many times I wanted to turn myself in, but I just didn't have the courage. And I would look at my three young children, and I just couldn't do it," he said. "But at the same time, I didn't want to keep running all my life with my family."

He said he was saddened families of the victims did not believe his story and would rather he received the death penalty than life in prison.

"I'm sorry things couldn't be done the way they wanted. If I could (receive the death penalty), then I would want it in order to satisfy them," he said. "I don't have anything against them, and I didn't have anything against any of the men (at the body shop). My biggest error was going that night with my cousin and shooting."

While in court, he broke into tears several times as he asked forgiveness.

"I'd like for a moment to be God and bring back everything to its place but that is impossible. The only thing I can do now is pay for what I have done," he said. Mendez-Reyna asked to speak in Spanish while making his final statements in court. Although he understands English, he told Judge Duane Taber he preferred to speak to family members in Spanish - his first language.

"I didn't have anything against those men and they didn't have anything against me. I am very sorry this happened and I feel very bad about it," he said through tears. "Unfortunately, it is too late to mend what has already been done. I accept my guilt and I will pay for it.

"I just ask people to forgive me," he said.

At one point, Mendez-Reyna could not compose himself, prompting Taber to break for a recess. As Mendez-Reyna was being escorted from the courtroom, his sister yelled out to him, "Pedro, we love you."

After his court appearance, Mendez-Reyna said he expected to visit with his family this morning.

"I'm going to tell my mother not to worry, that I am all right. And anything that happens to me from now on is in the hands of God," he said in the phone interview.

As for his children - ages 8, 6, 4 and 2 - he said he has not talked to his oldest son, who is living with his first wife in Tacoma.

"But the youngest ones have visited me. I tell them I am in a hospital and as soon as I get better I will return home. Right now they are too young to understand, but when they get older, I will explain to them everything that happened," he said.

Since his incarceration last summer, Mendez-Reyna said he tries not to spend too much time thinking about what happened seven years ago. "If I do, I become bitter. But I do think of my family because I need them as much as they need me," he said.