FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Police have solved four 2016 murders that terrified the Federal Way community and at one point prompted the police chief to tell neighbors to stay inside.
Two years later, Federal Way police chief Andy Hwang said all four homicides have been solved -- and the main suspect is already in prison.
"Our community is much safer today with this individual in custody," Federal Way police chief Andy Hwang said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
Hwang identified the primary suspect in all four homicides as Justice Henderson, who was 17 years old at the time of the killings.
"Mr. Henderson went on a killing spree," Hwang said. "He lost his moral compass and started killing people."
Henderson is already in custody, Hwang said. United States Marshals arrested him on July 11, 2016 for an attempted murder in Pierce County just two months earlier. Henderson was convicted and is serving a 12-year sentence for that crime.
Investigators are also recommending charges for two suspected accomplices in the case.
Three of the homicides happened within 48 hours on May 9 and 10, and another just a month earlier on April 3.
Hwang said the first victim was killed during a robbery, but that the other three homicides were "completely random."
These are the victims:
On April 3, 2016, 19-years-old Jeffrey McLaren Jr., was found deceased at the Cove Apartments parking lot, located at the 33100 block of 1st Ave S. He had been shot multiple times.
On May 9, 2016 (1:00 AM), 26-years-old Alex Kelley, was found dead at the Arcadia Apartments complex, located at the 1300 block of SW Campus Drive. He had been shot.
On May 9, 2016 (10:30 PM), 27-years-old Frank Cohens Jr., was found slumped over the wheel in a parked vehicle, located at the 2200 block of S. 333rd St. He had been shot multiple times.
On May 10, 2016 (11:12 PM), 30-years-old Adam Gutierrez, was found deceased lying on the sidewalk at the 1800 block of SW 356th Street. He had been shot multiple times.
Federal Way police said because there was no danger to the public, investigators held off on identifying the suspect until they had a solid case.
"We identified Henderson as a potential suspect in our crimes at about the same time he was arrested in 2016," Hwang said. "Because Henderson was in custody and not a danger to society, we held off disclosing his identity or charging him with Federal Way’s homicides at that time. That gave us the strategic advantage of thoroughly and completely investigating our four cases before revealing the perpetrator and his accomplices. We did this in close partnership with the King County Prosecutor’s Office."
“We weren’t sure they would ever be caught,” said McLaren’s aunt, Lisa Wollum. “I’m glad they’re caught, I’m glad they can’t do this to another family."
For the victim’s families, they say motive makes no difference. Now they are forced to live life without their loved ones.
“It’s been an endless two years. To have that phone call and to have the rug ripped out from under you is completely devastating,” said Wollum.
“I don’t even want to call him a person,” said Heidi Gutierrez, mother of Adam Gutierrez. “What caused him to do that? I mean what in his life would make him think that would be okay?”
Police believe the three suspects were part of a gang operating out of the west end of Federal Way – and said since their arrests crime has leveled out.
But for the families of the murdered, and a community torn by fear and frustration, the arrests can do little to explain why the shootings happened in the first place.
“Your family gives you strength, gives you reason to get up in the morning to do what you got to do,” said Adam’s father, Javier Gutierrez.
Q13 news has not named the other two suspects identified by the Federal Way Police Department but we if or when they are officially charged with a crime. It's up to the King County Prosecutor's Office to formally file charges.