Spokane County sheriff’s investigators on Friday announced that they are pursuing first-degree murder charges against a fourth suspect they believe helped kill Bret Snow, who disappeared in December 2015 and whose remains have never been found.
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory said Detective Lyle Johnston has requested the charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping against 33-year-old Kenneth L. Stone, who is in federal custody in another state on an unrelated drug conviction.
“With information recently obtained during this two-and-a-half-year investigation, Stone is believed to have conspired with Cheryl L. Sutton as she organized, managed, and directed several persons to engage in criminal activity for profit,” Gregory said in a news release. “In addition, these activities led to a criminal conspiracy which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of an associate, Bret Snow.”
Snow went missing in December 2015, when he was 32. Authorities suspect he was beaten to death and dismembered after a drug deal that went wrong. They believe that suspects moved his body multiple times. Detectives have interviewed more than a dozen people and reviewed cellphone records in an effort to find Snow’s remains.
That effort led detectives in 2017 to charge Sutton, 37, who already was in jail for a federal drug conviction. Two other suspects, Alvaro Guajardo, 53, and Colby D. Vodder, 27, previously were arrested in connection with Snow’s disappearance and continue to be held on $1 million bonds.
According to court records, several witnesses told investigators what happened on Dec. 2, 2015, the last night Snow was seen alive. Witnesses said Guajardo talked candidly about how Vodder dismembered Snow in a workshop in the 7800 block of North Star Road in Newman Lake, where Guajardo was living.
Snow’s mother reported her son missing on Dec. 15, 2015. That report came 13 days after Snow was seen getting a ride to the property on North Star Road. His cellphone was pinging in that area until the early morning of Dec. 3, when it fell silent. Snow had a history of drug use.
A search of the Newman Lake workshop in June 2016 found blood and hair belonging to Snow in the area, but the amount of blood shed could not be determined since the workshop was renovated by new owners, according to court documents. Detectives noted that with chemical processing, the scene suggested a “significant blood-letting event had taken place.”
Court documents say that, until late 2015, Sutton and Stone rented the outbuilding on Starr Road near Newman Lake, where they lived and sold methamphetamine and heroin. One witness told detectives Snow had delivered drugs for Sutton and Vodder, but they became infuriated shortly before Snow’s disappearance because he had accepted a trade, rather than cash, while making a delivery.
Other witnesses told detectives that Vodder had bragged to them that he and Guajardo “took care” of Snow. One witness described Vodder showing her what she believed to be the murder weapon as he held it up and waved it around. She said it was about 2 feet long, made of metal and “had teeth on it.”
As for Snow’s remains, witnesses told investigators that they heard his body was buried behind a barn in Greenacres, but then dug up and moved to Mount Spokane. Another person told detectives that Vodder said the body was “at the bottom of a lake,” according to court documents.
Vodder’s attorney, Joe Kuhlman, said Friday that he believes the trial for his client will start on Oct. 22.
“At this time, it would be incredibly inappropriate for a defense attorney to comment on a case of this magnitude that is pending trial,” he said.
Stone, the latest suspect charged, pleaded guilty last November to federal charges of distribution of controlled substances. Stone is in a medium security prison in Sheridan, Oregon.