Pierce County prosecutors Friday charged four members of a white supremacist prison gang with killing one of their own, allegedly because he broke the gang's code by dating the wife of a compatriot.
Not guilty pleas were entered on behalf of the four men and the girlfriend of one of them to charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Charged were Jeffrey Cooke, 32; Shanne McKittrick, 32; Mark Stredicke, 37; Eric Elliser, 33; and Melissa Bourgault, 33.
Prosecutors contend the five were involved in the death of Derek Wagner, 27. Wagner's body was discovered Nov. 17 in the 4500 block of South Asotin Street in Tacoma. He'd been stabbed three times, once through the heart, court records show.
Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered McKittrick and Stredicke jailed in lieu of $3 million bail each at the request of deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen, who cited their gang ties and previous criminal history.
Cooke and Elliser were ordered jailed in lieu of $2 million and Bourgault $1 million.
Prosecutors wrote in court documents that the defendants were angry with Wagner because he'd started a relationship with Stredicke's wife and might have been associated with another white supremacist gang.
"Stredicke told Wagner that if he continued the relationship Stredicke would consider that to be a sign of 'total disrepect,' and if it persisted they would 'take it from there,'" court records show.
Wagner apparently continued to see the woman, the records state.
Detectives served search warrants on the defendants' cell phones and retrieved text messages that appear to indicate they'd been talking about what to do with Wagner in the days before his death.
At some point during the early hours of Nov. 17, Cooke, Elliser, McKittrick and Wagner drove in three separate cars to the area of 44th and Asotins streets, court records indicate. Cooke lives nearby.
"Detectives believe Wagner was stabbed in a vehicle at this location and ran to where his body was found," the records show. "It appears the suspects searched for Wagner. The vehicles remained at that location for a couple of minutes before they drove away in different directions."
Detectives interviewed a witness who said at one point during the car trip Wagner, who was riding with Cooke, asked him to pull over. Wagner allegedly grabbed a knife from the console of Cooke's car and got out, court records show.
"Cooke stayed in the car while a scuffle ensued outside between Wagner, Elliser and McKittrick," prosecutors wrote. "Cooke heard someone say, 'I stuck him.' Then Wagner ran."
Cooke, who has a previous manslaughter conviction, declined to make a statement to detectives.
McKittrick denied being involved.
Stredicke denied knowing anything about Wagner's death but did admit to communicating with him over Facebook about his relationship with his wife.
Elliser told detectives he'd talked to Wagner in the hours before he died but said "their differences had been cleared up," court records state.
Bourgault indicated she was present at the stabbing but declined to make a statement beyond that.