Fifth co-defendant appears in court in Hockinson homicide

Traci Mendez reportedly conspired with others in robbery, killing of Raymond Brandon

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Raymond C. Brandon

Prosecutors have filed murder charges against the resident of a Hockinson home where the body of a man, who was beat and shot, was found in a shed.

Traci Lynn Mendez, 41, appeared Wednesday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of first- and second-degree murder. She is one of five co-defendants accused in the slaying of 34-year-old Raymond C. Brandon.

Brandon’s body was found April 27, nearly a week after he was killed, in a shed at Mendez’s residence, 15308 N.E. 172nd Ave., southeast of Hockinson High School.

Investigators believe Mendez conspired with two couples — Neil Allen Alway, 39, and Ashley Lorraine Barry, 31, and John Michael West, 43, and Ashley L. Wideman, 23, all transients — to lure Brandon and his girlfriend, Allison Fields, to the residence to settle a debt.

The group reportedly wanted to confront Brandon, who was in a dispute with a mutual friend, over a silver Subaru Forester he was driving. Mendez told detectives that they are all friends with a woman known to them as “Mom,” and that they planned to get the vehicle for her and give Brandon some “lumps,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.

On April 10, Mendez sent a message to Barry saying, “I know where he is at. He has no money to things. I am 42 and know how (things) work. I will use everything I have in my power to get Mom what’s hers. I will put it on my skin that she deserves loyalty and follow (through).” Barry responded, “OK I will help you in any way I can, k,” the affidavit states.

According to court records, Brandon and Fields went to Mendez’s house the morning of April 20 to eat and shower, as they had been doing for several days. The group, lying in wait, hid in a back bedroom while Mendez welcomed Brandon and Fields into her house. The group then emerged, surprising the couple, and used a pistol to take control of Brandon and a firearm he carried.

During the chaotic confrontation, Alway and West led Brandon outside, where he was beaten and fatally shot in the chest. Fields was forced to stay with the group or risk being killed herself, according to court documents.

The vehicle that Alway and West drove to Mendez’s house got stuck in the yard so Mendez drove the group and Fields in her SUV to a farm off Northeast 119th Street. Fields eventually escaped, but the assailants took the Subaru that was at the root of the debt, the affidavit said.

Fields told investigators that Alway was sent to collect money from Brandon, because he had used someone else’s money to get the vehicle out of impound after it was towed the month before, court documents state.

Investigators say they believe Mendez arranged for everyone to be at her house when the killing took place, and knew Alway and West had reputations for being violent. A witness said that when Mendez announced Brandon was coming over, Alway said he was going to assault and rob him, before leaving him stranded, naked in the woods, according to the affidavit.

Alway was later found in possession of the firearm that investigators believe was used in the killing. The Subaru was recovered from “Mom’s” house, court records said.

Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Robinson said during Mendez’s hearing that she knew Brandon’s body was in her shed and never reported it to authorities. Mendez reportedly has ties to gangs and at least eight prior warrants for her arrest, he said.

Judge Robert Lewis set Mendez’s bail at $500,000. She will be back in court Aug. 15.

The other co-defendants are scheduled for trial this fall.

Alway faces first- and second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm; West faces first- and second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm; Barry faces first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery; and Wideman faces first-degree kidnapping and rendering criminal assistance.