Anthony Hernandez-Cano reads a letter to the families of the two men he tortured and killed in July. A judge sentenced him to life in prison at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Tuesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Anthony Hernandez-Cano reads a letter to the families of the two men he tortured and killed in July. A judge sentenced him to life in prison at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Tuesday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

He tortured and killed two men ‘for the flimsiest of reasons’

Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 18, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.

EVERETT — In his first 18 years, Anthony Hernandez-Cano escaped the horrors of gang violence in Honduras. He will spend the rest of his years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Linda Krese ordered Hernandez-Cano to serve life behind bars without the possibility of parole Tuesday, for the torture and murders of two young men this summer.

Mohamed Adan, 21, of Seattle, was discovered beaten, burned and shot to death July 1, on the outskirts of Blue Stilly Park near Arlington.

The body of Ezekiel Kelly, of Everett, was found July 3 in a derelict home in Mukilteo. He’d been stabbed 27 times and shot in the head. He was 22.

Both were victims of Hernandez-Cano’s jealous anger, according to the charges.

“This is as brutal, and sadistic, and cruel of a series of murders as I have seen,” Deputy Prosecutor Craig Matheson said Tuesday. “The torture that both of these young men suffered at the hands of Mr. Hernandez-Cano, for the flimsiest of reasons — it is breathtaking.”

Hernandez-Cano believed Adan had “snitched” on him about violating a no-contact order with his girlfriend. Later someone told Hernandez-Cano it was actually Kelly who reported him to police, according to court papers.

LaTonage Kelly (right) offers a hug in a Snohomish County courtroom Tuesday, moments after her son’s killer, Anthony Hernandez-Cano, was sentenced to life behind bars. Mohamed Adan and Kelly’s son, Ezekiel, were both killed in July. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

LaTonage Kelly (right) offers a hug in a Snohomish County courtroom Tuesday, moments after her son’s killer, Anthony Hernandez-Cano, was sentenced to life behind bars. Mohamed Adan and Kelly’s son, Ezekiel, were both killed in July. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Kelly’s mother, LaTonage Kelly, told the court Tuesday that her son overcame a challenging childhood. He’d enrolled in a robotics program for people with autism at a local community college. He had a young daughter.

“Still, to this day, our hearts are torn in many pieces,” Kelly’s mother said.

The story of how the defendant arrived in Snohomish County is told in a 200-page biography submitted by his defense.

Hernandez-Cano’s mother, a Honduran immigrant to the United States, gave birth on a visit back to her home country. Only his mother’s name is on the birth certificate from 2000. The boy lived in Honduras with relatives, whom he said would beat him with a shovel or a belt.

“You can still feel the scars all over his back from being beaten,” wrote Julie Armijo, an investigator for the defense. “He has seen friends killed in front of him.”

Hernandez-Cano spent his school years skipping class and running with gangs.

At the time he emigrated in 2012, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world, according to U.N. statistics. He moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia, in the suburbs of Atlanta. An early brush with the law came at age 13, when he and an older brother were arrested in a home burglary of Nike shoes. Again, he was tied to local gangs. Often he was in trouble at school.

In 2015, he brought a pocket knife to class, but claimed he didn’t have plans to hurt anyone. He was expelled, and transferred to an alternative school. He told a forensic psychologist that he’d started smoking marijuana at 13 — “several blunts each day” — until he realized he needed to pass drug tests on probation. He acknowledged anger problems. He would run away, when he felt upset.

“Most notable,” a forensic psychiatrist wrote, “is his inclination to be emotionally apathetic, to exhibit a bland and unfeeling quality that is evident in the faintness of his affectionate needs, and to be unable to experience or manifest much joy, sadness, or anger.”

His probation ended in October 2016.

One month later, at age 16, he moved across the country to live with his girlfriend, Lendsay Meza. They’d been dating three years and were living in a Mukilteo apartment when he was booked into jail in June for violating a no-contact order.

Hernandez-Cano blamed Adan for the arrest. He recruited a friend and neighbor, Hassani Hassani, to help abduct Adan, court papers say. Hassani had feuded with Adan, too, when he accused the victim of trying to kiss his girlfriend.

Hernandez-Cano took photos of himself torturing Adan, then shot him.

The same week, Hernandez-Cano, Hassani and Meza kidnapped Kelly, according to charges. Court papers say Hernandez-Cano stabbed him, then handed a pistol to Hassani, who fired three rounds into his head.

Hassani and Meza are awaiting trial on aggravated murder charges.

Both times Meza’s car was used to drive to crime scenes. It was caught on a security camera near Arlington, leading detectives to the group.

Hernandez-Cano entered a guilty plea in August to two counts of aggravated murder. Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, weeks before the state’s capital punishment law was struck down. The only possible sentence was life in prison.

“These crimes are particularly heinous,” Judge Krese said Tuesday. “ … The reasons seem to be sort of for revenge, but for what, it’s hard to account for. Certainly the indiscretion, or whatever it was Mr. Hernandez-Cano was upset about, seems to have been very minimal.”

Hernandez-Cano’s mother, Mirna, fought tears in court Tuesday, as she searched for words to say to the families of Adan and Kelly.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “That’s the only thing I can say right now. … I know, to everybody around here, he looks like a monster, but he’s not.”

Hernandez-Cano turned to the full courtroom gallery. He unfolded a letter he’d written. He spoke quietly and rapidly, in a 20-second apology.

Afterward, the grieving families embraced. Kelly’s parents had brought a collage of portraits. One picture showed their son in a red cap and gown, ready for his future.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Michael Jensen, left, and Nathan Jensen, right, pick up trash in their encampment that they being forced to clear out of by Parks Department the near Silver Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Annual homeless count could shed light on pandemic’s impact

Snohomish County canceled its 2021 point-in-time count. Officials hope this year’s will bring clarity.

Section of a tsunami high ground map. (Island County)
Tsunami warning fizzled, but future threat to Whidbey is real

State and county officials have long warned about the possibility of a tsunami striking the island.

Judge: Sex abuse of former Marysville student violated law

A woman sued the district last year, accusing a longtime art teacher of sexual abuse in the 1980s.

Darrell Cain, Pierce College Puyallup president and incoming Everett Community College interim president
Pierce College Puyallup president picked to lead EvCC for now

Everett Community College’s board chose Darrell Cain as its interim president.

Christian Sayre (Washington County Sheriff's Office)
$1 million bail for Everett bar owner charged with rapes

Christian Sayre, 35, owner of The Anchor Pub, was charged last week with 10 counts of felony sex crimes.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Democrats ready to ditch the other ‘grand bargain’ of 2021

Here’s what’s happening on Day 10 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Jonathan Kline said a museum would be coming in to take most of the pews from the former Jehovah's Witness church on Morris Road outside Coupeville. The Whidbey Homeless Coalition wants to turn the building into an overnight shelter.
Appeal filed against homeless shelter project near Coupeville

More than 300 neighbors signed a letter saying the location isn’t an appropriate place for the shelter.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
As omicron surges, frustrations and challenges mount in correction facilities

More than 10% of those in state prisons are infected. “We’re kind of in this Twilight Zone cycle,” one prisoner said.

The entrance to the new free COVID vaccination site at the Everett Mall on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free mass-vaccination site opens Tuesday at Everett Mall

Hundreds of appointments are up for grabs at the state-run site, which will offer initial doses, boosters and pediatric shots.

Most Read