A judge entered not guilty pleas for the suspect in the recent killing of Renee Luiz-Antonio, 35, in Umapine.
Antonio Vasquez-Vargas, 52, of Walla Walla, appeared via video from the Umatilla County Jail for an arraignment Monday afternoon in circuit court on charges of felon in possession of a firearm and murder. Vasquez-Vargas, speaking through an interpreter, said Spanish is the only language he knows. Circuit Judge Christopher Brauer told the defendant he entered not guilty pleas to the charges on his behalf.
The shooting death took place the morning of Nov. 26 at the Umapine Creamery, where Vargas and Luiz-Antonio worked. Police caught Vargas early Nov. 27 outside a Kennewick hotel and kept him in jail in Washington on an arrest warrant for the murder.
He arrived Friday to the county jail in Pendleton. Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus said Vasquez-Vargas had a hearing Wednesday in Benton County, Washington, and waived extradition. A Umatilla County grand jury on Thursday handed up an indictment accusing Vargas of felon in possession of a firearm and the murder of Luiz-Antonio.
The Umatilla County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges using the name Antonio Vasquez-Vargas along with the alias Deciderio Cortez Vargas. State court records show he has 12 aliases. Vasquez-Vargas confirmed Monday his legal name is Antonio Vasquez-Vargas.
Brauer kept the bail for Vasquez-Vargas at $5 million and set a bail hearing for Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m. If the judge finds strong proof that Vasquez-Vargas committed the crime, the state can jail him without bail.
Primus outside of the hearing said every case is unique and his office in the coming weeks will see how this one unfolds.