The trial of two transients accused of beating a mentally ill man to death in Seattle in 2008 came to a halt when both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
For their pleas, Steven Bauder and Marcus Dennis each will face a standard-range sentence that tops out at just over 26 years in prison.
Prosecutors plan to ask for a 25-year sentence for both men; the defense lawyers say they will be seeking 20 years behind bars.
The two will likely be sentenced early next year.
Had the case been resolved by trial, the men could have faced up to life in prison because of sentencing enhancements that had been sought by the prosecution. The enhancements, known as aggravators, were dropped as part of the plea agreements, said Bauder’s defense attorney Peter Geisness.
Relatives of victim Noel Lopez say the end to the nearly two-week trial brought relief and disappointment. The slain man’s brother and sister said Thursday that the plea means that neither defendant will serve a life sentence.
“In one way it’s a relief to have it resolved quickly, but the frightening thing is that these guys will be on the streets again,” said the slain man’s sister, Lita Lopez, 35, of Los Angeles.
Before entering his guilty plea on Thursday, Bauder, 25, asked Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer if she was certain that Lopez was really dead. When the judge said yes, he agreed to enter the plea.
Bauder insists that the slaying was not premeditated, said Geisness.
Dennis, 22, pleaded guilty on Monday. His lawyer, Julie Gaisford, said Thursday that her mentally ill client attacked Lopez because he believed the man had raped a homeless girl.
Seattle police say that Lopez, 25, was obsessed with the then-15-year-old girl but the two never had a sexual relationship.
Lopez was killed at a construction site in the 1000 block of Fourth Avenue on April 14, 2008.
Prosecutors had earlier said they would try to have Bauder’s sentence enhanced by claiming he committed the murder as a member of a street gang, the Downtown Juggalos. It would’ve marked the first time that the King County Prosecutor’s Office has used the state’s gang statute in a case involving a Juggalo, a nickname for fans of the Detroit-based heavy-metal/rap duo Insane Clown Posse.
Prosecutors said Dennis, whose nickname is “Smurf,” was not a member of the Downtown Juggalos.