Killing suspect has prior felonies; second suspect arrested

EVERETT — A man suspected in the Dec. 27 fatal stabbing at Madison Elementary School has a criminal history going back nearly 30 years.

James Ruiz, 44, of Everett, was arrested Wednesday for investigation of secon

d-degree murder. Everett District Court Judge Tam Bui on Thursday set his bail at $1 million.

Ruiz is being held in connection with the death of Donald J. Barker, 37, of Everett. A second man was arrested Thursday, also in connection with the case.

Neighbors at Madison found Barker dying in the school parking lot that night. They stayed with him until help arrived.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matthew Baldock asked for a high bail for Ruiz partly because he has four felony convictions in the past 20 years, most of them drug-related.

Ruiz’ first felony was for a first-degree robbery when he was in his mid teens.

On Wednesday, a woman told Everett police detectives that Ruiz came into a home the night of Barker’s killing and gave another woman a knife to hide, court records show.

He allegedly showed people at the home how he and another man had beat and stabbed Barker.

Ruiz later told police the knife was thrown into a river. He said he had been at the school during the killing and that he temporarily held a knife, but denied stabbing anyone, police wrote in an affidavit.

Everett police picked up the second suspect Thursday night during a traffic stop in north Everett, Sgt. Robert Goetz said. He was arrested without incident.

A 34-year-old Everett man was later booked into Snohomish County Jail for investigation of second-degree murder.

Detectives also have interviewed a man they believe witnessed the killing, Goetz said Thursday. The man said he saw Barker attacked “without warning or cause,” according to a police affidavit.

Ruiz’ past is dotted with criminal offenses.

His first felony conviction came in 1982, when he was charged as a juvenile with first-degree robbery. As an adult, he has racked up at least nine misdemeanors, as well as felony convictions for cocaine in 1993 and 1995.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty to felony eluding and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors said he tried to race away from a Washington State Patrol trooper but got his car stuck in a field in south Everett. Investigators later found a handgun in the car, and blood tests showed cocaine in his system.

Everett police have not released information about a suspected motive for the killing, but say it was not a random act, Goetz said Thursday.

While the investigation continues, people who live near Madison say they are shaken.

Police leaders met with neighbors at the school Wednesday night, Goetz said. Such meetings are routine, but Wednesday’s focused on safety concerns and questions about the killing.

Madison Elementary’s school safety committee held a separate meeting at the school Wednesday night as well, Everett schools spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.

School maintenance crews were working this week to install stronger light bulbs around the property, Waggoner said.

Neighbors have complained to school officials about after-hours drug activity, she said. Most problems seem to take place when children and staff aren’t present.

Everett police have fielded and addressed similar complaints, Goetz said.

Gary Rimstad has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

“The last few years, it’s just got bad with the drugs,” he said.

Rimstad has called police several times over the years about stolen cars and drug activity on the school grounds, he said. The riffraff usually finish whatever they’re doing and leave before an officer arrives.

The night of Barker’s killing, Rimstad checked his mail at about 5 p.m. The neighborhood was quiet.

Just 30 minutes later, a neighbor knocked on the door, begging for a blanket to wrap up the man dying across the street.

“It’s terrible,” Rimstad said. “It really is.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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