First-degree murder charges were filed Thursday against John J. Munzanreder and his alleged accomplice, Juan Pablo Ibañez-Cortes, in the fatal shooting of Munzanreder’s wife in the parking lot of a Union Gap movie theater last week.

Under Washington state law, first-degree murder involves premeditation and carries a minimum sentencing range of 20 to 26½ years in prison upon conviction. The maximum sentence is 45 years and eight months.

Yakima County Prosecutor Jim Hagarty said a charge of aggravated first-degree murder, the only crime in Washington that carries the possibility of the death penalty, has not been ruled out and that a final decision on the charge would be premature while the investigation remains active.

“We just needed to make a charge right now to continue to hold them,” he said, adding, “Until the investigation is fairly well completed, we’re not discounting anything. ... We can always go up (to aggravated murder) if additional materials come in.”

Cynthia Kelley-Munzanreder, 45, died Saturday, two days after being shot in the head and the hip after she and her husband left The Majestic movie theater.

Her husband is accused of shooting her in a remote corner of the theater’s parking lot and then claiming she was attacked by a stranger in a hooded sweatshirt who ran off.

Investigators said Munzanreder, 43, tossed the murder weapon to Ibañez, 21, who they said was hiding in a hedge nearby and fled the scene with the gun to cover Munzanreder’s tracks.

Police said they found the alleged murder weapon, a Taurus .44 Magnum, hidden in a shop at Valley Ford, where Ibañez worked as a shop tech and Munzanreder managed the service department. Kelley-Munzanreder had worked at the same dealership for 22 years before taking a job last summer at Mike Olson Dodge.

Investigators said Ibañez told detectives Munzanreder offered him $20,000 to kill Kelley-Munzanreder but he declined, offering instead only to help.

In addition to the murder charge, Ibañez also was charged with one count of being an alien in possession of a firearm. Police said he bought a .22-caliber pistol in the days before the attack.

Under Washington law, aggravated murder charges are restricted to cases involving certain criteria, such as more than one victim or if a person is killed in the course of a different crime, such as robbery or kidnapping. Soliciting, or paying, someone to commit murder is among the criteria.

• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or