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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Selah man sentenced to life in money-lending store slayings

Associated Press

YAKIMA – A central Washington man who shot and killed two money-lending store employees two years ago will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Manuel Enrique Verduzco Jr. received two life sentences Friday in Yakima County Superior Court, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

A jury convicted the Selah man of the March 2016 killings of 27-year-old Karina Morales-Rodriguez of Toppenish and 30-year-old Marta Martinez of Yakima. The two worked at a MoneyTree lending store.

“It was a horrific crime – somewhat inexplicable given Mr. Verduzco’s lack of criminal history – but a deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two people who did nothing more than go to work that morning,” said Judge Michael McCarthy.

Prosecutors said Verduzco killed the women during a robbery that went bad. Verduzco’s defense attorneys argued that he was experiencing a schizophrenic episode during the killings.

“Go ahead and sentence him and we’ll file our appeal paperwork today,” said defense attorney Peter Mazzone.

Defense attorneys had previously argued that Verduzco inherited a tendency toward schizophrenia from his father’s side of the family. They sought to use an insanity defense.

McCarthy said the jury made the right decision in rejecting an insanity defense.

The two women who were killed were not scheduled to work that day but had traded shifts with other workers.

“Knowing how close we all came (to death) not only scares us but gives us guilt,” said MoneyTree branch manager Dena Bird.