3.20.2010

TS - Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case

Suspect pleads in McKinleyville murder case
A second of the four suspects accused of murdering a McKinleyville man in February has reached a plea deal with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office.

Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka, was sentenced to serve 13 years and four months in state prison Friday, after pleading guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and burglary, with a special enhancement for being armed during his role in the shooting death of 30-year-old Ezra Sanders.

Sanders 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' killing was the result of a botched attempted armed robbery.

In April, four suspects were charged with Sanders' murder: Peredia, Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka; Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans and Jeffrey Allan Burgess, 39, of Eureka. Burgess is also charged with a special allegation of firing the bullet that killed Sanders.

Mace reached a plea deal earlier this month, pleading guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and agreeing to testify against his co-defendants. Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said Mace faces a maximum of six years in prison if he complies with his part of the deal.

Burgess and Williams have pleaded not guilty, and have been held to stand trial on charges of murder.

Peredia's plea deal will leave him with two strikes on his record, meaning he will serve a minimum of 85 percent of his sentence, according to his attorney Jeffrey Schwartz.

”I think there was significant enough evidence that he felt it was too big of a risk for him to go to trial and look at life without parole,” Schwartz said of Peredia's decision to accept the plea deal. “He just had to balance the risk. ... Several witnesses placed him there. When you assess that evidence, it was a risk he didn't want to take.”

But unlike Mace's deal, Schwartz said, Peredia has no obligation to assist the prosecution's case against the remaining defendants.

”He's sentenced, gone and absolutely doesn't have to say one thing to anybody,” Schwartz said.

During the preliminary hearing, Mace testified that he, Williams, Peredia and Burgess traveled from Eureka to McKinleyville intending to rob Sanders of cash and drugs. When Sanders resisted the robbery attempt, and appeared to reach for something in his trailer, Mace testified that Peredia yelled “shoot him.” At that point, Mace testified, he heard a single gunshot he believed to have been fired by Burgess.

Williams and Burgess are scheduled to be re-arraigned Monday. Both face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Times-Standard staff writer Allison White contributed to this report.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com