Murder charges expected to be dropped in stabbing

EVERETT — Murder charges against two women were expected to be dropped Friday while detectives continue to investigate last month’s stabbing death of an Everett man.

Snohomish County prosecutors earlier this month charged Sarah Hellerud and Lathana Neese with first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Luis Verduzco, 23. The charges were filed in district court and prosecutors had until Friday to refile them in Superior Court.

“Although the investigation is moving forward and detectives have made significant progress, we’re not at a point that we can formalize charges in Superior Court,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Baldock said.

That doesn’t mean that Hellerud, 27, and Neese, 29, were automatically free to leave jail on Friday. They both were being held on unrelated criminal matters, including forgery, mail theft and other property crimes.

The women have denied taking part in the April 24 killing.

Verduzco’s body was discovered outside a vacant house on Madison Street in central Everett. He had been stabbed once in the chest.

A witness told detectives that the suspects met up with Verduzco with plans to rob him of methamphetamine. They lured him to their vehicle under the ruse that they wanted to buy some drugs, according to court papers. As they drove around they attempted to steal his meth. When he refused and fought back, Hellerud allegedly stabbed him, according to a police affidavit. The suspects reportedly pushed him out of the vehicle.

Witnesses reported seeing a bloodied Verduzco walking toward the area where his body eventually was located.

Police on Wednesday caught up with a third suspect after he reportedly shoplifted from a Bellingham mall.

Derek Donnelly, 31, was stopped by a security guard at the Bellis Fair Mall with about $240 worth of stolen merchandise.

Everett detectives had been searching for Donnelly and issued a police bulletin, notifying other departments that he was wanted in connection with the stabbing.

Donnelly eventually is expected to be booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of Verduzco’s death, Baldock said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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