Special Reports

Pasco slayings suspect held without bail

Mass murder suspect Pedro Reyna Mendez is being held without bail in the Franklin County Jail while he awaits trial for killing five men and wounding a sixth in Pasco in 1987.

Mendez, 31, appeared in court Monday to face five counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. He is to be arraigned in Franklin County Superior Court at 9 a.m. today.

The victims were gunned down Oct. 13, 1987, in a Pasco auto body shop by two men.

Mendez and his cousin, Vicente Mendez Ruiz, were charged with the crimes in October 1987 and bail was set at $4 million each. Mendez was arrested July 4 in McAllen, Texas. Vicente still has not been found.

Mendez was brought to Pasco aboard a Delta Airlines flight from McAllen, and arrived at the Tri-Cities Airport about 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

He traveled as a regular passenger but wore shackles. He was accompanied by Capt. Bill Clark of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and Cpl. Henry Montelongo of the Pasco Police Department.

Since his arrest, Mendez has been held at the Hidalgo County Jail in Edinburg in south Texas.

As he was escorted into the courtroom Monday afternoon, Mendez appeared calm, neatly groomed and was wearing wire-framed glasses and orange jail overalls.

As Mendez stood before Superior Court Judge Fred Staples, Amelia Magallon and her sister-in-law, Alicia Magallon, sat a few rows back in the courtroom and leaned forward to get a better look.

The women are related to one of the victims, and said they had attended Mendez's preliminary hearing because they wanted to see him.

Their eyes swelled with tears as Mendez was read his rights.

"I feel nervous, but I'm glad he's been brought up so now justice can be done," Alicia Magallon said after the hearing. She is sister-in-law of slaying victim Rafael Magallon.

Rafael's 34-year-old sister, Amelia Magallon, said in Spanish, "I've never seen him before. This was the first time. He looks like a very humble, innocent person, that if one were to see him they wouldn't believe he did what he did."

She added, "It's consoling to actually see someone who is going to be tried in court. All we've been able to rely on are reports and photographs."

Amelia Magallon said she felt as if she was dreaming while sitting in the courtroom.

"It's been a long time Ê six years. And that's the hardest part for us. We're reliving everything again as we did back then," she said.

Court documents charge Mendez with killing Magallon, Francisco Cortez, Eliceo Lamas, Juan Antonio Garcia and Misael Barajas. He also is accused of attempting to kill Jessie Rocia.

Public defender Linda Edmiston was named to represent Mendez.

Family members said Magallon "was at the wrong place at the wrong time" six years ago. They said he went to the body shop that night to deliver a wedding invitation for a cousin.

The 22-year-old Magallon had been living in the area for three years working as a field laborer.