By Sara Jean Green / The Seattle Times
Baron Li, a sales manager at a Burien car dealership, said he was walking to his car to go to work on July 10 when an unknown assailant shot him 9 times from point-blank range in the parking lot of Li’s Bellevue apartment complex.
He spent a week at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center and had to use a wheelchair for a month after he was discharged, Li said in a phone interview on Tuesday, the same day King County prosecutors charged his ex-wife and two teenage alleged accomplices with premeditated attempted first-degree murder.
Li and his ex-wife have been involved in an acrimonious custody battle over their son, who has special needs and who turned 6 in April, according to Li and court records. Police say there may be a financial motive behind the murder-for-hire plot and Li confirmed his son has a special-needs trust fund that contains “quite a bit of money.”
“I knew where the threat was coming from. It wasn’t a surprise. I knew I was in her way for what she wanted and that she was capable of doing it,” Li, 48, said of his ex-wife’s alleged plot to have him killed.
Prosecutors say Li’s ex-wife, 30-year-old Shaerin Kelley of Mountlake Terrace, was actively plotting with one of her accomplices to “complete the job” and kill Li after their failed July attempt, according to charging papers.
Kelley and two Mount Vernon 17-year-olds, Joseph Good and Quincy Mendez, were arrested Thursday and made their first court appearances Friday, according to prosecutors.
The attempted murder charge against Kelley includes a domestic-violence aggravator. Good, who is not legally allowed to possess firearms because he is under 18, was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm after police searched his house and found a loaded shotgun under his bed and a .22 caliber rifle in his closet, the charges say.
Though Kelley’s bail was initially set at $2 million, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner wrote in charging papers that the court “only had limited information about the full extent of the plot to kill the defendant’s ex-husband and was unaware that those efforts were ongoing.” She requested that Kelley — who faces a potential life sentence if convicted — be held without bail and a judge agreed, court and jail records show.
Good and Mendez, who were both charged as adults, remain in custody at the Judge Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center, with their bail set at $2 million each, according to the charges.
Good and Mendez were appointed defense attorneys to represent them in juvenile court, The Seattle Times reported Saturday. Per court rules, both will be appointed new attorneys now that they have been criminally charged in adult, or superior, court.
Court records do not yet indicate which defense attorneys are representing Kelley, Good and Mendez. According to the charges, Good is the accused shooter while Mendez is accused of driving him to and from the Bellevue shooting scene; Good expected to be paid $13,000 for killing Li and was to pay Mendez $5,000 for driving him, the charges say.
Kelley filed for divorce from Li in Snohomish County Superior Court in August 2015, less than five years after the couple married in Clark County, Nevada, court records show.
Li said Tuesday that Kelley had primary custody of their son until 2017, when Child Protective Services placed him in foster care for neglect. He said he fought for two years in dependency court to have his son returned to him, which happened in May 2019; Li was granted primary custody and Kelley was allowed overnight weekend visits, he said.
Then in March, after a number of troubling incidents during child exchanges, a judge revoked Kelley’s overnight visitation and required her visits with their son to be supervised, Li said.
Asked if he knew of the allegation that his ex-wife was still plotting to kill him, Li — who doesn’t have use of his right arm and expects to undergo hip-replacement surgery as a result of the shooting — replied, “I was well aware of the situation.”
According to the charges:
Just before 8:30 a.m. on July 10, several people called 911 to report a man, later identified as Li, had been shot in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 5300 block of Village Park Drive Southeast. Bellevue police officers and medics responded and medics applied three tourniquets to manage Li’s blood loss before transporting him to Harborview.
Witnesses reported seeing a pickup truck circling through the complex and also described seeing a man run from the shooting scene.
Li later told police the only person who hated him enough to arrange the shooting was Kelley, his ex-wife, the charges say.
Investigators began surveillance on Kelley hours after the shooting and observed her drive to Mount Vernon and stop at two trail heads in Little Mountain Park.
From video-surveillance footage, police obtained the license plate number of the pickup seen at Li’s apartment complex and determined it was registered to Mendez’s father in Mount Vernon, the charges say. During the investigation, detectives learned Mendez was good friends with Good, whose appearance was consistent with the shooter and front seat passenger seen in the surveillance footage, say the charges.
The charges also detail the custody battle between Kelley and Li and say detectives confirmed “Kelley would stand to obtain significant funds if she had sole custody of their child, thus providing a possible motive for murder.”
In September, detectives obtained records showing Good had forwarded himself an email containing a link to a security company’s login website for a GPS device the night before Li was shot. The GPS device was purchased by Kelley in 2015 but had long been dormant until June 26, two weeks before the shooting, when she re-activated her account, say the charges. She canceled her account on July 14, four days after Li was shot.
Police later found the GPS device registered to Kelley attached to Li’s car, according to the charges.
Several weeks after the shooting, Kelley informed Good “job unfinished, will need to complete unless it resolves on its own in the next month,” say the charges, citing phone records obtained during the execution of a search warrant.
The charges say Kelley discussed dropping off a payment at the same Mount Vernon park where she was seen driving within hours of the July shooting.
News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.