EVERETT — It took the better part of an hour for deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson to sum up the atrocity — a pair of torture killings that left two young men dead near Arlington and Mukilteo.
Over the coming days and weeks, the evidence will be graphic, difficult and necessary to hear, Matheson warned a Snohomish County Superior Court jury Friday during his opening statement for the double-murder trial of Lendsay Meza, 22.
Meza is not charged with actually shooting to death the two men, Mohamed Adan and Ezekiel Kelly. Instead, she’s on trial for helping her boyfriend, Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 19, kidnap and kill the victims in summer 2018, along with another accomplice, Hassani Hassani, 21.
Both men were earlier convicted of murder. They held petty grudges against the victims.
Meza’s defense argued she was not a willing participant.
She was the only one in the group of defendants who had a job or a car. In separate kidnappings, the victims were lured or forced into the back seat of her Saturn. She drove around the county while the victims were tortured in the back. Adan, 21, of Seattle, was burned on his face with a cigarette and beaten with a hammer, then shot to death on the outskirts of Blue Stilly Park near Arlington. Recovered cellphone photos showed Meza sitting in her car, watching the killing.
“Mohamed was killed by people he thought were his friends,” Matheson said.
Two days later, Ezekiel Kelly, 22, of Everett, was discovered dead inside an abandoned house near Mukilteo. He had been stabbed 27 times and shot in the head.
“Ezekiel was killed by people he thought were his friends,” Matheson said.
Prosecutors allege Meza, along with the two men, bludgeoned Kelly with a baseball bat in the woods before the shooting.
Two days after Kelly was killed, she took a selfie with the caption, “yeah (I) am crazy as (expletive) (EXPLETIVE).”
Kelly overcame challenges in his childhood. As a boy, he had been diagnosed with autism.
“People may notice it as they get to talking with him,” his mother, LaTonage Kelly, told The Daily Herald in September. “He wanted people to like him for him. … And he made friends. He didn’t make no enemies.”
He applied to enroll in a robotics program at Bellevue Community College in summer 2018.
Kelly’s parents watched the trial from the front of the gallery Friday while the jury saw grisly photos of the crime scenes projected on the wall.
An opening statement by the defense attorney, Walter Peale, lasted just under two minutes.
“What you’ve just seen, ladies and gentlemen, is horrific, no question about it,” he began. “Can you imagine the fear and frightening circumstances for both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Adan? Can you imagine what it would be like, to be in the car with somebody like Anthony Hernandez-Cano?”
Meza’s then-boyfriend is serving a life sentence for two counts of aggravated murder. He is not expected to testify, but he professed Meza’s innocence in a letter to the court.
“Lendsay Meza was really really scared,” he wrote in January 2019. “She told me that she was going to tell the police. I told her that if she do it (sic) I was going to kill her family. So after that I start to drug her to make sure she didn’t tell nobody and I told her to drive to the car in the second murder.”
Hassani pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and first-degree kidnapping. He’s serving a 35-year sentence.
According to the defense, the violence committed by the two men was inflicted not only on Adan and Kelly but on Meza, too.
“Can you imagine what might be done to somebody who resisted their desires and their instructions?” Peale asked. “Can you imagine that?”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.
This story has been modified to reflect that an aggravating factor was dropped just before Meza’s trial started last week.