◼ Friend testifies against McKinleyville murder suspect
One of the suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February during a botched robbery attempt allegedly returned to the scene of the crime hours later looking to steal what was missed in the first attempt, a friend of hers testified Friday.
Ezra Sanders, 30, was found shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24, lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Investigators have said they believe Sanders' death was the result of an attempted robbery gone bad.
In April, four suspects were arrested and charged with Sanders' murder: Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans; Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka; and Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka.
Thursday, the prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin, announced that Mace had reached a plea deal with the District Attorney's Office, under which he agreed to testify against his co-defendants and to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. If he follows through with his part of the deal, Mace faces up to six years in prison, according to McLaughlin.
Burgess, Williams and Peredia have all pleaded not guilty to the charges facing them.
Friday, Anthony Pratt Jr. testified that Williams called him in the hours shortly after Sanders was shot, and confessed to being involved in the crime.
Pratt, who appeared in court after being taken into custody because he failed to appear to testify Thursday, said he could tell by Williams' voice that something was wrong, and agreed to meet her to talk about it.
When the two met, Pratt testified that Williams appeared “confused” and “scared,” and that she told him Sanders had been shot during an attempted robbery, and that she had been involved. He said she did not know at the time whether Sanders had survived the shooting.
Further, Pratt said that Williams told him she intended to “go back (to Sanders' trailer) and get what they didn't get the first time.”
Pratt testified that Williams later told him that when she returned to Sanders' RV park, police were on the scene and she left.
Over the ensuing days, Pratt said Williams further confided in him that Burgess and Peredia were involved in the shooting, but Pratt had a hard time remembering when Williams told him of Mace's involvement.
Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Detective Troy Garey testified Friday that he was called after Pratt was arrested for possessing methamphetamine in April, and told that Pratt had information regarding the Sanders case. Garey said that in exchange for the information, Pratt wanted to be released from custody and to have the charges against him dropped.
Garey said he made no promises, and that Pratt told him of his conversations with Williams during an interview.
Garey also testified Friday about what he found when he arrived on scene at Sanders' body in the early morning hours of Feb. 24.
When he arrived on scene, Garey testified that he found Sanders body lying about seven feet from his trailer door, lying on his back with his fists raised and clenched. Garey said a pool of blood was found inside the trailer, indicating that Sanders likely was shot inside the trailer and fell to the ground before getting up, exiting the trailer and collapsing where he was found.
Garey also testified that no fingerprints were found in the stolen truck believed to have been used in the crime that matched any of the four defendants. Other items from the truck were sent to the state Department of Justice for forensic testing, Garey said.
Garey said he and District Attorney investigator Steve Dunn re-interviewed Mace Thursday night.
At the conclusion of Friday's proceedings, McLaughlin said he may call Mace to testify Monday, when the preliminary hearing -- held to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the defendants to stand trial -- is scheduled to continue.
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org.