Shooter gets 40 years for killing teen in Everett drug deal

A jury found David Wright, 33, guilty of first-degree murder for shooting Raul Cuadros, 19.

David Randall Wright

David Randall Wright

EVERETT — A gunman who killed a teenager outside a Jack in the Box in Everett must serve 40 years in prison, a Snohomish County judge ruled on Wednesday.

A jury convicted David Randall Wright, 33, of first-degree murder in late September for shooting Raul Cuadros to death.

Both men showed up to a supposed drug deal that had been set up over Facebook messages early Feb. 17, 2019. Both sides were expecting to rip off the other around 3:40 a.m. at Evergreen Way and West Casino Road.

Brianna Reynolds planned to rob the alleged dealer, Christopher Phelps, 30, according to charging papers.

She showed up with Cuadros, who had a revolver tucked into his waistband. But Phelps wasn’t there.

Charges say Phelps sent Kodi Anderson, 28, who wanted revenge because a few days earlier Reynolds had made a similar deal with him, and when he showed up to a hotel room, he got jumped by two men instead. According to the charges, Phelps advised Anderson to bring along someone else as backup, and then gave him Wright’s name, phone number and address.

Reynolds abandoned her plan when she saw the two men — Anderson and a stranger in bottle-style glasses — coming toward her in the Jack in the Box parking lot. The men demanded her purse. She refused. Cuadros stepped in to break it up. Reynolds walked away. The men pursued her. She fired pepper spray at them.

A shot rang out.

Cuadros was pronounced dead at 3:53 a.m., from a gunshot to the chest. He was 19.

“Had any one of the several actors involved made slightly different decisions, it would not have resulted in the death of a human being,” deputy prosecutor Michael Boska wrote. “Now the families affected are left with an enormous impact.”

Wright later told Anderson he fired because Cuadros flinched, according to the charges.

Security footage captured much of what happened, but skipped forward three seconds at the critical moment.

Police believe Reynolds grabbed the unloaded revolver from Cuadros’ pants and hid it in her purse, “to protect” him.

The cameras showed the shooter wore Adidas shoes with a white outer sole and three black stripes, the same kind of shoes Wright was wearing when Everett police arrested him. Police also arrested Anderson, Phelps and a third man, Raymond Tannehill, 29, who drove the two men to the scene and helped them to flee afterward.

Anderson pleaded guilty on July 8, 2019, to attempted first-degree robbery committed while on community custody. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of 8 years at a hearing set for early November.

Tannehill pleaded guilty July 18, 2019, to attempted first-degree robbery. He is also awaiting sentencing. He’s facing about 2½ years in prison.

Phelps has a trial date set for late January. He’s charged with first-degree murder.

Reynolds was never charged with evidence tampering. However, court papers in a new unrelated identity theft case involving her suggest she could still face charges related to the homicide.

Wright’s attorney, Walter Peale, asked for an exceptionally low sentence of 15 years, well beneath state sentencing guidelines that suggest 39¼ to 50⅔ years, counting a firearm enhancement. He argued nobody showed up to the Jack in the Box with a plan to commit murder, and Wright merely reacted to Cuadros flashing a gun. So the defense attorney contended it was not a premeditated murder by Wright, and that the jury got it wrong. Peale said it makes sense that prosecutors would focus on his client, since he pulled the trigger.

“But as a matter of legal responsibility,” Peale argued, “that shot was fired by Kodi Anderson and that shot was fired by Brianna Reynolds.”

Prosecutors had asked for just over 44 years behind bars.

Wright’s aunt, Sheila Heath, said she felt two lives were lost that morning.

“I know a person died that day, but (Wright) could have died as well,” she told the judge. “It could have been him.”

She said she still believes her nephew can reform himself and become a productive member of society.

Because of his felony record, having a gun at all was a crime for Wright. He had been convicted of arson in 2006; burglary in 2009; possessing a stolen vehicle, identity theft and burglary in 2013; auto theft and drug possession in 2016; and 35 misdemeanors dating back to 1999. Near the start of his murder trial, outside the presence of the jury, he pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Cuadros’ family attended Wright’s hearing Wednesday and wrote victim impact letters, but did not wish to speak in the courtroom.

Kurtz asked the defendant if he had anything to say.

“Just one thing,” Wright replied. “Regardless of the circumstances leading up to or during all of this, nobody wants to lose a family member. I’m sorry for you guys’ loss.”

He said nothing else.

Kurtz said that in 40½ years, when his sentence expires, Wright will be “an elderly man.”

“But of course,” the judge added, “the victim here was only 19, and his family has been robbed of all those years they could have possibly shared with him. It is so tragic and sad, all the way around.”

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

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