Slain man found in shallow grave near Snohomish

SNOHOMISH — A body found in a shallow grave north of here Monday is that of a man who was shot to death, deputies said, and police are seeking a suspect.

A neighbor walking a dog discovered the remains that evening off a stretch of Dubuque Road at Machias, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Thursday.

The neighbor reported smelling a strong odor in the area for several weeks, court papers said.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday identified the victim as Fernando Mendoza, 18, of Burlington. He died from multiple gunshot wounds. His death was ruled a homicide.

No arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon.

“We are actively searching for a suspect,” Ireton said.

The suspect is described as a 20-year-old man, but his name was not released.

Deputies observed drag patterns to the site from a nearby home as well as three distinct shoe impressions leading back to the home, according to a search warrant.

Detectives from Snohomish and Skagit counties have been working together to investigate the case, Ireton said.

Skagit deputies received a call July 3 from a Burlington woman reporting that Mendoza, her brother, was missing.

His family last saw him on July 2, when he drove from his home in an acquaintance’s black Lincoln. His family told authorities they suspected foul play.

Mendoza’s girlfriend told investigators that he had called her July 2 to say he was going to the Everett area to meet a friend and pick up money. His girlfriend assumed he was going to meet an acquaintance who had bought drugs from him and owed him money.

A Marysville businesswoman reported July 16 that a black Lincoln had been in her parking lot since July 2, according to a search warrant. It was the car Mendoza was last seen driving.

Cellphone records helped detectives track the last calls Mendoza made. The suspect received a call from Mendoza’s phone on the afternoon of July 2.

A witness earlier this week told detectives he heard gunshots in early July and that he saw the body of a Hispanic man lying on the ground near a barn and the suspect holding a shotgun. He said the suspect pointed the shotgun in his direction and told him to help him move the body.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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