By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — After wading through conflicting stories from a cast of drug addicts and felons, prosecutors believe they know who fatally stabbed Luis Verduzco and left him to die alone outside a vacant Everett house.
Nine-time convicted felon, Derek Donnelly was charged Friday with second-degree murder with a deadly weapon in connection with the April 23 homicide. Prosecutors are accusing Donnelly, 31, of plunging a knife into Verduzco during an apparent drug rip-off.
An Arlington woman, Lathana Neese, 19, also has been charged with murder in connection with the killing. Police believe that Neese helped arrange the meeting with Verduzco, 23.
Witnesses told Everett detectives that Donnelly was looking for someone to rob of drugs. Donnelly reportedly has called himself a “stick-up kid” and has a reputation for robbing people of narcotics at knife-point, court papers said.
Prosecutors say phone records show that Neese repeatedly called and sent text messages to Verduzco during the early morning of April 23. Witnesses say that Neese and Donnelly arranged to meet with Verduzco, telling him they wanted to purchase some methamphetamine.
Investigators believe the pair and another man picked Verduzco up in a Dodge Durango that was loaned to Donnelly in exchange for drugs. Witnesses said Neese was driving, Verduzco was in the front passenger seat and Donnelly sat behind him. One witness said the group drove around Everett for about an hour, smoking meth.
Donnelly reportedly grabbed Verduzco from behind. Verduzco struggled to break free and attempted to jump from the moving vehicle. Donnelly allegedly stabbed the man in the chest and pushed him from the Durango.
A witness later reported seeing a young man running down W. Madison Street with his face covered in blood just before 7 a.m. on April 23. The bloodied man stripped off his shirt and threw it on the ground before running out of sight.
Verduzco’s body was discovered the next day near a garage on W. Madison Street, off Broadway.
A witness told investigators the trio drove toward Edmonds, but the Durango broke down and they left the vehicle on I-5. Before ditching the Dodge, Donnelly reportedly tried to clean up some of the blood with Mountain Dew. Donnelly also reportedly told someone that he wrapped his knife in some tape and threw it away in a garbage can near a restaurant on 128th Street SW in south Everett, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock wrote in charging papers.
Police initially arrested Neese and another woman in connection with the slaying. The women were charged in District Court with first-degree murder. Prosecutors declined to refile the charges in Snohomish County Superior Court, explaining that the investigation was ongoing.
Donnelly was arrested in May after being arrested for shoplifting at a Bellingham mall. He was booked into the Whatcom County Jail. Everett detectives obtained a search warrant to seize a DNA sample from Donnelly to compare against evidence found inside the Durango. The results of that test have yet to be made public.
Donnelly is expected to be moved to the Snohomish County Jail in the coming days. A judge here Thursday signed a $1 million warrant for his arrest.
Neese is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on the murder charge. She also was being held on forgery charges.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.