With a trial date set for February, the attorney for a 17-year-old gang member accused of killing a teenage girl in March is hoping to strike a plea deal before the end of the year.
Christopher Swaby, who represents Benicio Xavier Lopez, said he would like to see the case resolved before Lopez turns 18 in December and is transferred to the Yakima County jail while awaiting trial.
“My client is a boy,” Swaby said during a Friday hearing in the case. “I want to get this done so he doesn’t spend the best part of his life in prison.”
Lopez is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree unlawful firearms possession in connection with the death of Lillyonna Rose Beaty, 15, on March 17.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nicholas Barrett said his colleague Steve Jackson was recently put in charge the case, and they were in the process of getting up to date on the matter.
Yakima County Superior Court Judge Ruth Reukauf said she was not planning to extend the trial date any longer, noting that Lopez had been detained in the Yakima County Juvenile Justice Center for 237 days as of Friday.
Reukauf said there was talk about sitting down with Lillyonna’s family to discuss how to resolve the case before going to trial, preferably before Lopez turns 18 on Dec. 20.
“After that, I will have an 18-year-old in front of me,” Reukauf said. “At midnight on the 19th, he will be taken down to the adult jail where he will remain until the case is resolved.”
The next hearing is set for Dec. 12. Swaby declined to comment after the hearing.
Prosecutors allege that Lopez shot Lillyonna and her aunt in a gang-related shooting in March.
Yakima police responding to a report of shots fired on March 17 found Lillyonna in a van in the 1700 block of South Eighth Avenue with multiple gunshot wounds, according to court documents. Lillyonna’s aunt, Danielle Rose, was found wounded next to a garage.
Rose said she and Lillyonna were driving toward Kissel Park when they saw a group of boys in the street, and Lillyonna thought one of them was her boyfriend, court documents said. Her boyfriend was not in the group, Rose told investigators, and one of the boys, later identified as Lopez, called them a derogatory name for gang members and threatened to kill them.
Gunfire then erupted, the court documents said, with both women being hit before Rose could speed away.
Lillyonna died March 28 at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.