Tuesday, May 11, 2021
May 11, 2021

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Co-defendants in fatal 2017 Hockinson shooting sentenced

3 agree to testify against man guilty of murder, kidnapping, robbery

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Three co-defendants who agreed to testify against the primary defendant in the beating and fatal shooting of a man at a Hockinson property in April 2017 were sentenced Monday.

John Michael West, 47, Ashley Wideman, 27, and Traci Lynn Mendez, 45, testified earlier this spring at the trial of Neil Allen Alway.

Prosecutors say Alway was beating 34-year-old Raymond C. Brandon with West when Alway decided to kill Brandon and pulled the trigger on his gun.

A Clark County Superior Court jury found Alway, 43, guilty of first- and second-degree murder, and two counts each of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Another co-defendant, Ashley Lorraine Barry, 35, had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced in 2019 to about 13 years in prison for her involvement.

On Monday, West was sentenced for second-degree murder to 220 months, or about 18 years, in prison; Wideman received a suspended sentence and credit for time served after pleading guilty to unlawful imprisonment and second-degree rendering criminal assistance.

However, Judge Jennifer Snider declined to follow the attorneys’ agreed-upon, 11-year prison sentence for Mendez. Instead, Mendez received the same sentence as West.

Snider concluded that Mendez, who also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was not less culpable than West. The judge said there is no question Brandon would still be alive if it weren’t for Mendez luring him to her residence.

“Whether or not she knew what was going to happen when he got there, that’s irrelevant,” Snider said, adding that Mendez knew people were going to ambush Brandon. “At the very least, she knew there was going to be a beat down.”

Regardless of her cooperation, the judge said she could not justify giving Mendez a sentence less than the maximum.

Mendez conspired with the others to lure Brandon and his girlfriend, Allison Fields, to her residence at 15308 N.E. 172nd Ave., to settle a debt over a Subaru Forester he was driving, according to prosecutors.

The couple arrived on the morning of April 20, 2017, and were ambushed by the group. A chaotic confrontation ensued, and Alway and West led Brandon outside where he was attacked and fatally shot in the chest by Alway. Fields was forced to stay with the group or risk being killed herself, court records say.

Afterward, Mendez drove the group and Fields in her SUV to a farm off Northeast 119th Street, and Fields eventually escaped, court records say.

Alway had planned for months to assault and rob Brandon because he owed Alway money for the Subaru, which Brandon and Fields had been living out of for a few weeks. They’d been driving it to the Hockinson residence to shower, eat breakfast and, according to the defense, use drugs. Brandon’s body was found a week after he was killed there.

‘It’s heartless’

All three co-defendants sentenced Monday apologized to Brandon’s family.

But until sentencing, the family said they had not seen remorse from any of them.

In her statement to the court, during West’s sentencing, Brandon’s sister said: “They’re animals, and they don’t deserve anything less than to be caged.”

Shawna Roberts, the mother of one of Brandon’s children, said hope was stolen “from an entire group of people — hope of recovery, hope of a better day. You stole that from my child and his other kids.”

Each defendant spoke either directly or through their attorney about how methamphetamine addiction played a role.

West said he’s fought drug and alcohol addiction most of his life, and because of it, has found himself in situations he wouldn’t normally be in. He told the court he’s ready to take responsibility for his actions and hopes to become a better person, “spiritually, mentally and physically.”

Snider said it was the first apology she’s heard.

“While it’s very clear that methamphetamine played a role in what took place, it certainly isn’t an excuse or justification,” she said.

The judge said she was also surprised to learn that West and Wideman had stayed in Brandon’s aunt’s home after he was killed — before the family knew what had happened to Brandon.

“It’s heartless; there’s no other word to describe it. It’s heartless,” Snider said during West’s sentencing.