With the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office officially filing charges against two teenage brothers in the death of 15-year-old Hector Hernandez-Valdez this afternoon, the circumstances surrounding last Friday's grisly murder in East Tacoma have become at least a bit clearer.
Charging documents filed in the case provide the following information uncovered by the ongoing police investigation.
Prosecutors contend that at approximately 2:12 p.m. Friday afternoon the suspects' mother, identified in charging documents as M. Ruelas, "flagged down a Tacoma Police Officer and reported that her two sons had just killed a juvenile and that the body of the deceased was at her residence." Police promptly responded to the scene and found 16-year-old Luis Arroyo and his 14-year-old brother, both of whom were detained at this time.
From charging documents:
Police asked Ruelas for the location of the body, and the defendant answered "in the bin out back." Police verified that the defendant was referring to a trash can behind the residence. Police located a number of trash and recycle bins, one of which contained the body of a juvenile male wrapped inside of a blanket. Police were unable to find any sign of respiratory activity and immediately established a crime scene perimeter. Tacoma Fire responded to the scene and confirmed that the subject was deceased. Officer Williams took custody of the defendant and searched him prior to placing him in a patrol car. Williams located nine (9) individually wrapped baggies of suspected marijuana, a cellular phone, and $166.00 in U.S. currency.
Ruelas subsequently told investigators that she had returned home on her lunch break to find a blue recycle bin in the living room. When she asked her sons why it was there and what they were doing, she says neither had an answer.
Investigators also say Ruelas discovered several towels and rags on the floor "with a reddish brown color on them." When pressed on what these stains came from, charging documents state the boys apparently told their mother it was chili.
However, "upon further inspection, Reulas identified the stains as blood," according to charging documents.
Understandably inquisitive and unnerved, at this point Reulas again asked her sons what was going on. In response she was told, "there was a guy upstairs in the bathroom," according to charging documents.
From charging documents:
Reulas went upstairs to the bathroom and saw a boy lying on a sheet who she believed was dead. Reulas asked a friend to watch her niece and she drove to the 4 sector substation.
Prosecutors say Luis Arroyo's 14-year-old brother later told investigators he heard the sounds of a struggle coming from the residence and saw his brother fighting with a boy he'd seen on previous occasions. The 14-year-old told investigators the two appeared to be fighting over a knife, and that he decided to arm himself with a "large nail" and subsequently stabbed the victim three times in the neck and several times in the back, according to charging documents. The 14-year-old also told investigators that, at that point, he saw his older brother stabbing Hernandez-Valdez as well.
Charging documents contend that after repeatedly stabbing Hernandez-Valdez the brothers moved him to an upstairs bathroom for the purpose of draining his body of blood. The younger brother allegedly told investigators that the brothers ran water over Hernandez-Valdez after placing him in the tub, at which point he began making noises. The younger brother allegedly said he left the bathroom at this point, and when he returned Hernandez-Valdez's "throat had been cut and he was no longer making sounds," according to charging documents.
As for the motive, charging documents suggest the theft of marijuana may have played a role in the murder.
From charging documents:
LUIS told detectives that he knew the victim as "Hector," later identified as 15 year old H.M.H. and that he smoked and sold marijuana. LUIS said he called H.M.H. to come over and smoke marijuana. H.M.H. agreed and LUIS said he was dropped off by a vehicle LUIS recognized as associated with a local criminal street gang. LUIS said he led H.M.H. up the stairway inside the house. LUIS said he had armed himself with a knife prior to H.M.H.'s arrival. LUIS said H.M.H. punched LUIS on back of head without provocation. LUIS said he stabbed H.M.H. in face with the knife then stabbed him several more times. LUIS said at one point H.M.H. said, "I thought I could trust you." LUIS said [his younger brother] joined in and stabbed H.M.H. in the neck and back with a "shank," a makeshift knife or stabbing instrument. LUIS told detectives he decided to put H.M.H. in the bath tub to "drain him out."
Prosecutor's contend both brothers agreed to clean the residence and place Hernandez-Valdez in a recycling bin. During this process they were interrupted by their mother returning home. Once their mother left to alert authorities, but before police arrived, the brothers allegedly stuffed Hernandez-Valdez into the recycling bin and moved it outside.
More from charging documents:
Investigators searched the residence and located two "BB" guns, a "BB" inside the tub, a knife consistent with the knife Luis said he used, a machete, an object consistent with a "shank" as described by LUIS, a claw hammer in the bathroom sink, as well as trash bags loaded with used cleaning materials. Investigators stopped counting stab and slash wounds suffered by the victim at 34. It appeared the blade of a knife was broken off in the head of the victim. Autopsy is pending. LUIS told investigators that the marijuana and money belonged to H.M.H. and that the items fell out of H.M.H.'s pockets during the struggle. LUIS knew the number of bags of marijuana and the amount of cash recovered.
Charging documents indicate police spoke with Hernandez-Valdez's mother, who told authorities her son received a phone call around noon Friday and subsequently told her he was going to walk somewhere and return shortly. The scene of the crime and the residence of the victim are within two blocks of each other.
Obviously, Hernandez-Valdez never returned home.
"This is a horrible, adult-sized crime, and it's appropriate and just that the older brother be prosecuted and held accountable in the adult system," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist in a press releases distributed to local media outlets.