Two men charged in 2019 Federal Way murder

Police say DNA evidence aided in the charges five years after the death of Moises Vega-Mendez.

After nearly five years, two suspects have been charged in a Federal Way killing that occurred in 2019.

Carlos Iraheta-Vega, 25, and Rudy Garcia-Hernandez, 34, were charged for their alleged roles in an Oct. 2019 murder, which they are accused of committing a month after another alleged murder.

On June 20, the Federal Way Police Department shared these charges on Facebook to celebrate its detectives in the Criminal Investigation Unit and announce the breakthrough. Through DNA processing, officers had enough evidence to charge Garcia-Hernandez and Iraheta-Vega of the alleged crimes of second-degree murder. Garcia-Hernandez and Iraheta-Vega were both charged on June 13, and they both pleaded not guilty on June 20 to the alleged crime against Moises Vega-Mendez.

Ties to MS-13 gang

According to police, in October 2019, Garcia-Hernandez and Carlos Iraheta-Vega approached the occupants of a truck parked Chevron gas station at 1650 SW Dash Point Road in Federal Way.

The armed suspects confronted and threatened the truck’s occupants. One man pointed his firearm at the driver, while the other fatally shot the passenger, identified as Moises Vega-Mendez. Both suspects fled the scene.

Vega-Mendez, 37, died of a gunshot wound to his head, according to the medical examiner.

According to charging documents, that crime occurred on Oct. 6, 2019. About a month prior, the pair was accused of killing 16-year-old Juan Carlos Con Guzman with a machete on Sept. 10, 2019. The pair was arrested for that killing on Oct. 10, 2019, four days after the death of Vega-Mendez.

According to charging documents, in the killing of Con Guzman, Iraheta-Vega used a bat and Garcia-Hernandez used a machete to kill the 16-year-old, then partially dismembered his body.

Charging documents state that the murder of Con Guzman and the murder of Vega-Mendez were both alleged to have occurred in part because of the defendants’ MS-13 gang involvement and desire to command respect for that gang. MS-13 is also known as Mara Salvatrucha, a gang originating in California that was started by Salvadorian immigrants.

According to documents, Iraheta-Vega has no prior criminal convictions before these two murders. Garcia-Hernandez also has no known criminal convictions, but appears to have pending charges from Virginia for street gang participation, brandishing a machete, and interfering with the property rights of another. He also has an arrest history from California. The charging documents said that despite no prior criminal convictions, due to their prior charges, high bail is warranted and necessary to protect the community. Their bail was set at $5 million, and a reduction was denied.

Details of the Oct. 2019 case

The victim in the Oct. 2019 homicide, Vega-Mendez, and his friend, who was the driver, had stopped at the Chevron gas station at 1650 SW Dash Point Road to purchase beer, according to charging documents.

As Vega-Mendez returned to his truck, two men, identified as Iraheta-Vega and Garcia-Hernandez, approached the vehicle. The charging documents allege that the suspects confronted the victims, brandishing firearms, saying that they were sent to the area by the gang Mara Salvatrucha. The friend said that Iraheta-Vega told him not to start the truck or he would die, and then he pointed his gun at Vega-Mendez, but he pushed the gun to the side. Following this, the friend said that Garcia-Hernandez produced a firearm and told Vega-Mendez, “You’re going to respect!” before shooting him in the side of the head. Vega-Mendez was transported to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Charging documents said that a driver identified as ZEO had driven Iraheta-Vega and Garcia-Hernandez to the gas station because they wanted Swisher cigars and beer, but had no money. ZEO said he thought the pair was going to steal beer, but then, after some time, he heard a single gunshot before the pair returned to the vehicle. Following the gunshot, employees at the Chevron locked the doors and called 911, reporting that they saw a male with a .38 caliber revolver.

Charging documents state that through camera footage, they observed ZEO driving the vehicle and parking at Chevron. Following that, footage showed Iraheta-Vega and Garcia-Hernandez leaving the vehicle, then returning. That vehicle was later located. The charging documents say that fingerprints belonging to Iraheta-Vega and Garcia-Hernandez were found on the vehicle driven by ZEO, along with multiple other items with fingerprints linking the pair to the crime.