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Monday, September 21, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Guilty pleas entered in Pedersen murder

Homeless man was strangled in 2013

Two men who strangled another man, beat him with rocks and dumped his body in the Spokane River in June 2013 have pleaded guilty to murder.

The pleas are part of a deal with prosecutors that call for about 15 years in prison.

Anglers found the body of 40-year-old Mark Pedersen floating in about 6 feet of water under a bridge near the Riverpoint Campus. Investigators found a homeless camp nearby and eventually arrested Dakota Moss, 25, and Vincent Merrill, 20, after witnesses staying there said they saw Pedersen with the two men around midnight on June 26, 2013.

Merrill initially declined to speak with investigators. Moss, however, told police he’d tried to pin Pedersen to the ground while Merrill strangled him with a cord, according to court documents. Moss told investigators that Merrill had accused Pedersen of sexual crimes and “acting weird.” Pedersen’s criminal history included only drug charges.

Pedersen’s family told police he’d been living on the streets for a few months before his death. Both men picked Pedersen’s pockets before dumping his body, according to court documents. Moss told police that Merrill bragged about walking around “in a dead man’s shoes” after taking Pedersen’s black high-top sneakers.

Neither Moss nor Merrill had a criminal history prior to their arrests 14 months ago. Moss pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as Merrill’s accomplice last week, according to court records.

Merrill followed suit Monday, just as his trial was scheduled to begin. Both men are scheduled for sentencing in early October. If a judge accepts their plea deals, Moss will spend 15 years in prison and Merrill will get an 18-year sentence.

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