Special Reports

Franklin prosecutor seeks death penalty for Mendez

Franklin County Prosecutor Dennis DeFelice will seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing five men and wounding a sixth in a Pasco auto body shop in 1987.

DeFelice announced Friday he would seek the death penalty against Pedro Mendez-Reyna, 31.

Mendez-Reyna, also known as Pedro Reyna Mendez, faces five counts of first-degree aggravated murder and one count of first-degree assault in the Tri-Cities' worst mass murder.

Mendez-Reyna and his cousin, Vicente Mendez Ruiz, are accused of killing Rafael Parra Magallon, Francisco Venegas Cortez, Eliceo Guzman Lamas, Juan Antonio Lopez Garcia and Misael Barajas, and injuring Aldo Montes-Lamas.

Ruiz is still at large.

Under state law, aggravated first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or by death. Aggravated murder is the only crime punishable by death in Washington.

Mendez-Reyna was charged with aggravated murder because the crimes involved the killing of multiple victims.

The law also gives the prosecutor 30 days from the time a person is charged with aggravated murder to decide whether to seek the death penalty, but allows for the deadline to be extended.

An extension was granted in the Pasco case to give Mendez-Reyna or his court-appointed attorneys - Linda Edmiston and Carl Sonderman - time to show leniency would be merited in the case, DeFelice said.

"I have to decide if the case merits leniency or if it merits the death penalty," DeFelice said. "I think it merits the death penalty."

Neither Mendez-Reyna nor his attorneys presented enough evidence to show leniency was warranted, DeFelice said.

Mendez-Reyna's mother, Evangelina Reyna of Sunnyside, said she has left her son's future in the Lord's hands.

"The only thing I can say is that it's whatever God wants," she said.

She said the last time she visited her son in Franklin County Jail was about a month ago.