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Suspect told friend he ‘had to kill’ 6-year-old girl as well as mother

Angel Morales-Larranaga
Angel Morales-Larranaga

The man accused of strangling his wife and her little girl in their Post Falls apartment Tuesday first removed his own two young daughters from the household before returning to commit the killings, authorities said.

Angel Albertico Morales-Larranaga, 24, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Facunda Velenzuelaleon, 24, and Dayana M. Valencia, 6, in the apartment he shared with them. He is being held on $2 million bail.

Morales-Larranaga may have been distraught over his wife’s infidelity, and he had self-inflicted cuts on his wrists when taken into custody, according to court records. A family friend informed police that Velenzuelaleon, also known as Rhianna, told her husband last week that she had cheated on him during a recent trip to California.

Morales-Larranaga, who is from Mexico and worked at La Cabana Mexican restaurant in Post Falls, allegedly confessed to the killings while visiting that friend Tuesday morning. He said he strangled his wife, and when the friend asked about the girl, he responded, “She got up and started hitting me, so I had to kill her too,” according to a Post Falls police report.

Police stopped Morales-Larranaga in his SUV at Spokane Street and Poleline Avenue and arrested him Tuesday after the friend called them to report what he had told her. Around noon, detectives entered the apartment at Tullamore Commons and found a gruesome scene.

Velenzuelaleon was dead on a bed. She “appeared to have been severely beaten around the head and face area as it appeared distorted in size and shape with swelling and severe bruising,” a detective wrote in a report. “The wrists of both arms had been deeply sliced through with a knife/cutting instrument.”

The woman also showed signs of “severe manual strangulation,” the detective noted.

The girl’s body was found in another bedroom, with cut marks on her neck, throat and chin, and an electrical cord wrapped tightly around her neck, the detective said. A serrated knife with blood and hair on it was found in the same room, according to the report.

The family friend told police that Morales-Larranaga had called around 2 a.m. Tuesday and said he needed to talk. He brought his two daughters, ages 1 and 3, to the house and left them there before he returned to the apartment at 4172 E. Laurelbrook Drive.

Police said Morales-Larranaga had cuts on his wrists when he was taken into custody. He told a detective he had cut himself, feeling “it would be best if he took himself out of this world,” court records state. But when he was booked into the Kootenai County Jail Tuesday, Morales-Larranaga appeared to be looking forward, asking a Post Falls police officer if he could earn his GED since he would be in jail “for a long time.”

Morales-Larranaga made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon. Appearing via a video feed from jail, he wore a sleeveless black shirt, spoke through a Spanish interpreter and sat next to his court-appointed attorney. He said he understood the charges and the potential sentence of the death penalty or life in prison. Morales-Larranaga made no other statement.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh recommended bail of $2 million, and 1st District Magistrate Judge Barry Watson agreed. The killings were “personal and sensitive” because of the relationships and the manner of death, McHugh said.

“We believe the aggravating nature of the crimes justifies the bail,” he said.

A preliminary hearing for Morales-Larranaga will be held within 14 days.