Anthony Hernandez-Cano leaves court after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated murder Monday afternoon at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
                                Anthony Hernandez-Cano leaves court after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated murder Monday afternoon at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Anthony Hernandez-Cano leaves court after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated murder Monday afternoon at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

18-year-old pleads guilty to ‘gruesome and sadistic’ killings

Two men, found near Arlington and in Mukilteo, were tortured, then shot to death.

EVERETT — The main defendant in a pair of torture killings in Snohomish County entered a swift guilty plea Monday to two counts of aggravated murder.

The plea leaves Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 18, with one possible sentence under state law — life in prison with no chance of parole — for playing the lead part in the executions of Mohamed Adan, of Seattle, and Ezekiel Kelly, of Everett.

Passersby found Adan’s body July 1 near Blue Stilly Park outside of Arlington. He’d been stripped, bashed in the head, burned on his face and shot many times, in the torso and foot. He was 21.

Kelly’s body was discovered July 3 at an abandoned building on Beverly Park Road in Mukilteo. He had tape looped around his neck, new charging papers say. He’d suffered 27 stab wounds and three shots to the head. He was 22.

Security cameras at a fire station near Blue Stilly Park captured images of a car belonging to Hernandez-Cano’s girlfriend. Once detectives tracked Hernandez-Cano down, he admitted to the killings, implicated his friend Hassani Hassani as an accomplice, and rode with police to show them the places where the two men were beaten and killed.

Hernandez-Cano believed both men had “snitched” on him when he violated a no-contact order with his girlfriend, Lendsay Meza, 21, according to what he told detectives. He spent time in jail in late June for the offense. Meza then told him she had woken up from sleeping in her car one night to see Adan watching her and typing on his phone. Hernandez-Cano was infuriated.

According to his story, he beat Adan with a baseball bat behind an Albertsons store, bound him with tape and tortured him while Meza drove them to Arlington. Hernandez-Cano admitted to burning Adan’s face and stomach with a cigarette. Police later recovered images from the group’s cellphones, according to the new charges, filed Friday. One showed Hernandez-Cano smiling next to Adan, who was bloodied and battered in the back seat of a car.

“I got this punk (expletive) snitch on me LMAO.” He also made reference to a group of gangs.

Another photo of Adan’s injuries was captioned: “When a snitch (expletive) get got up by the (gang).”

Hernandez-Cano shot Adan twice in the foot, then rode away in the car allegedly driven by Meza. But then the car turned around. Hernandez-Cano returned and shot him to death.

“I killed him,” he told detectives. “I wanted to make him suffer.”

Hernandez-Cano went on to describe luring Kelly, the second victim, into the car, stabbing him with a dagger and acting as a lookout.

Hassani Hassani shot Kelly to death at the Mukilteo home. Court papers say Hassani allegedly admitted to the shooting, though he’s awaiting trial. In Hassani’s interview with police, he reportedly said Hernandez-Cano stabbed Kelly many times, handed him a gun and told him to “finish him off.”

Hassani allegedly told police he killed Kelly so he could be “tough” like Hernandez-Cano. Ammo recovered from both scenes had the same caliber and markings.

Hernandez-Cano’s defense attorney, Gurjit Pandher, declined to comment Monday.

If he had gone to trial, Hernandez-Cano faced two possible sentences: life in prison or capital punishment. Craig Matheson, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor in Snohomish County, said the defense came to him to propose the plea.

“This is probably one of the more brutal and sadistic series of murders that I’ve dealt with,” Matheson said. “My guess is that he thought, if he did not accept responsibility, that (Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark) Roe would have thought long and hard” about seeking the death penalty.

Three other defendants are awaiting trial.

Hassani and Meza are accused of aggravated murder. They are in jail. Hassani’s girlfriend is accused of rendering criminal assistance by allegedly misleading police about what she knew and helping to clean evidence from the car. She posted $10,000 bond earlier this month.

Hernandez-Cano’s plea does not require him to testify against the others, the prosecutor said. He entered the guilty pleas through a Spanish interpreter Monday, in front of Judge Linda Krese. About two dozen people — family, police, attorneys — watched from the gallery.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 23.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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