Third Suspect in Deadly Graduation Party Shooting Charged
Another suspect has been identified and charged in the case of a June 9th graduation party in Benton City that turned deadly.
20-year-old Elijah Cruz is accused of shooting into a car outside the party. A passenger in the backseat, 20-year-old Jesus Contreras Chacon, was shot and killed.
It was announced at today's press conference at the Benton County Sheriff's Office that Cruz will be charged with first degree murder.
Investigators say Cruz was already in custody as a suspect in a separate burglary case.
"When the detectives originally investigated the burglary, they found a shoeprint and, believe it or not, that's the one thing that linked him to be looked at in other investigations." Sheriff Tom Croskrey said.
Investigators say Cruz has gang affiliations and that others with gang affiliations were at the party.
Meantime, a second and third suspect have already been charged in the case.
22-year-old Ruben Marin is accused of displaying a firearm and shooting several shots, injuring five people at the party. Marin's suspected getaway driver, 21-year-old Vanessa Martinez, is charged with rendering criminal assistance.
"Mr. Marin went inside a vehicle to flee the scene. We can see the shooter, Mr. Cruz, hiding behind a vehicle. He waited for the vehicle to pass his location and got out and shot at the vehicle. So, the Benton County prosecutor felt that was enough for murder in the first degree." Sergeant H. Gonzalez said.
Benton County Prosecutor Eric Eisinger offers praise to everyone involved in this case.
"Our office has worked really closely with the Benton County Sheriff's Office. In the investigation stage of this case, there have been upward of 30 warrants on this case just to dig into the details," Eisinger said. "We've had a prosecutor assigned to work with the detectives. She's been working a number of months and put in countless hours to work out the details."
It's unclear whether Marin and Cruz will be prosecuted at the same time. Marin is already a suspect in a murder case in Yakima.
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