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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Teen gets maximum in coach’s death

Associated Press

KENNEWICK – A Tri-Cities teenager was sentenced Thursday to nearly 27 years in prison for his participation in the stabbing death of a popular Benton City teacher and coach.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Robert Swisher handed down the maximum 320 month sentence to 16-year-old Robert A. Suarez, who was convicted March 11 of first-degree murder in the Sept. 4, 2004, slaying of King Robert “Bob” Mars.

Mars, 44, of Richland, a veteran sixth-grade teacher and assistant football coach at Kiona-Benton High School, was stabbed in the stomach during a robbery in a hallway at the middle school where he taught.

The 14-year-old boy accused of fatally stabbing Mars, Jordan E. Castillo, has pleaded innocent to first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled to start May 16 in Spokane.

Benton County Prosecutor Andrew Miller said Suarez was charged with first-degree murder because he and Castillo agreed in advance to commit the robbery in which Mars died.

Castillo also is charged with first-degree attempted theft.

Miller said initial reports that the crime occurred as part of a gang initiation were overblown.

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