TACOMA — Alejandro Aguilera Rojas’ murder case will be adjudicated in federal court rather than in Clallam County Superior Court, state and federal prosecutors said.
Rojas, 23, of Renton is now charged in U.S. District Court for the Feb. 10 murder of Dioneth Lopez.
Investigators said Rojas beat and stabbed Lopez, with whom he was having an affair, and left her for dead on a U.S. Forest Service road near Blyn on Feb. 10.
Lopez, of San Pablo, Calif., was 21.
“I commend the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for their quick and thorough work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a press release.
“The victim’s family has lost their loved one forever, and we will work hard to ensure that the defendant is held accountable for taking her life.”
Lopez pleaded not guilty in Clallam County Superior Court on March 6 to second-degree murder with a deadly weapon enhancement.
That charge was dismissed Monday without prejudice, meaning it could be re-filed at a later date, Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said.
Federal prosecutors filed a complaint Friday charging Rojas with second-degree murder in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma.
Rojas made a preliminary appearance in federal court Tuesday.
The federal court has jurisdiction because the alleged murder occurred on federal land.
“After consulting with Clallam, the decision was for us to take it,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said in a Tuesday email.
Langlie said it is not uncommon for cases to be dismissed in Superior Court in favor of federal prosecution, if appropriate.
“The two offices look at all the issues and decide how to proceed,” Langlie said.
According to the criminal complaint, Rojas, a married man, was having a relationship with Lopez, who had traveled to Seattle to visit him.
Rojas picked up Lopez from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Feb. 10 and took her to Sequim to meet friends for a planned hiking trip, FBI Special Agent Colleen Sanders said in the complaint.
Investigators said Rojas was hiding his relationship with Lopez from his wife and family.
Lopez and Rojas stayed at the Longhouse Market near 7 Cedars Casino for about seven hours on the evening of Feb. 10, spending much of the time in Rojas’ red Chevy Silverado pickup truck, according to the store’s surveillance footage.
Lopez’s body was discovered Feb. 14 in the Buckhorn Wilderness at the end of Forest Service Road 28-280.
A broken and bloody tequila bottle, box cutter and knife were located near the body, Sanders said.
Lopez had severe blunt-force trauma to her head and multiple blunt and sharp-force injuries to her neck, torso and upper extremities, including 11 puncture wounds to her right posterior lateral torso and deep incised wounds in her neck, Sanders said in the complaint.
Lopez had other wounds on her arms and hands “consistent with trying to ward off an attack,” Sanders said.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the manner of death was a homicide and the cause of death was multiple blunt and sharp-force injuries.
“I believe that the numerous injuries sustained by (Lopez) were primarily caused during Rojas’ violent assault of her using the tequila bottle, a knife and possibly other weapons, that occurred near and at the location where (her) body was found, resulting in her death,” Sanders said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].