In adult court, four teens plead not guilty to murder

Prosecutors allege they worked together to plan and execute a drug robbery in Everett.

EVERETT — Four teens charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an Everett woman all pleaded not guilty Thursday amid objections from their lawyers, who argued their clients don’t belong in adult court.

Lawyers for Bryan “B-Money” Rodriguez-Hernandez, Larry Dontese Dorrough, Gladyz Valencia-Anguiano and Mondrell Maurice Robertson all urged Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes not to arraign their clients on first-degree murder charges.

Instead, they said the cases against their clients ought to be handled in the court’s juvenile division.

The defendants who made court appearances Thursday are all ages 16 and 17. Prosecutors brought charges against them in adult court under state law that generally treats defendants of their ages as adults when charged with murder and other serious offenses.

The lawyers told Downes that questions about the “automatic decline” statute are the focus of a case pending before the state Supreme Court. Defense attorneys are arguing the statute is unconstitutional.

Deputy prosecutor Edirin Okoloko said the decline law is on the books and has been appropriately applied.

Absent a ruling from a higher court that the law is flawed, it remains in effect, Downes said.

Prosecutors allege the teens worked together to plan and execute a Dec. 7 robbery that was supposed to get drugs from another teen.

That boy, 17, was punched, pistol-whipped and shot in the back. His mother, Julie Knechtel, 54, died after being shot in the heart while attempting to come to his aid, court papers said.

Knechtel’s son told detectives that he recognized one of the intruders, a 15-year-old Lynnwood boy who he said has robbed him before.

That teen allegedly pointed to the other suspects. He reportedly admitted his involvement in the holdup but denied hurting anyone.

On Tuesday, he was charged in juvenile court with first-degree murder and prosecutors filed paperwork making clear they hope to move the case against him to adult court, too. That can only happen after a court battle in which a judge would need to find specific reasons for the teen’s case not to remain in the juvenile court system, which places more focus on rehabilitation than punishment.

Lawyers for the other defendants told Downes they intend to file motions arguing that their clients’ cases should be returned to juvenile court. Valencia-Anguiano’s attorney was so strident in her objection Thursday that she instructed her client to refuse to enter a plea.

Downes pleaded not guilty on the girl’s behalf.

The judge set February trials for each defendant. He maintained $500,000 bail for Robertson and Valencia-Anguiano but ordered $1 million bail for Rodriguez-Hernandez and Dorrough.

Prosecutors allege that Rodriguez-Hernandez bragged of shooting Knechtel and that Dorrough shot her son.

In court Thursday, Okoloko also said the two were involved in a drive-by shooting in south Everett just hours before the fatal robbery.

Braden Pence, an attorney for Rodriguez-Hernandez, objected to the judge setting bail in the murder case while also considering allegations that haven’t yet been charged.

Downes said it was proper for him to consider all of the information included in the sworn affidavits filed in the case. Among other things, he noted Rodriguez-Hernandez had robbed Knechtel’s son in the past, and allegedly assaulted a sheriff’s deputy and escaped from custody for several hours Sunday after initially surrendering in the shooting.

“I am satisfied the facts justify $1 million bail,” he said.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@herald Twitter: @snorthnews.

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