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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Co-defendant emerges as new witness in Bret Snow murder trial

Bret Snow of Spokane Valley disappeared in December 2015, and authorities believe he was kidnapped and killed. He was 32. (Spokane County Sheriff’s Office)

The murder trial of Cheryl Sutton, one of four suspects Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies believe were involved in the 2015 torture and slaying of Bret Snow, was delayed Friday as prosecutors announced a co-defendant had suddenly come forward as a witness.

The co-defendant, while not named in court, is confirmed by several attorneys close to the case to be Kenneth Stone, Sutton’s longtime boyfriend, who was implicated last month as an accomplice in Snow’s death. Stone was in federal custody in Oregon on an unrelated drug conviction when he was charged Aug. 1 in Spokane County.

Sutton was arrested on charges of kidnapping, leading organized crime and conspiracy to commit murder in 2017.

In court Friday, Jeremy Schmidt, a public defense attorney at the Counsel for Defense, agreed to the state’s request for a continuance, which was granted by Superior Court Judge Raymond Clary to allow time for attorneys to interview the co-defendant. The trial, originally set for Monday, is now scheduled for Nov. 5.

“We believe it’s very important to talk to this individual,” Schmidt told Clary. “He may even be exculpatory” – meaning favorable to the defendant.

Snow, a then-32-year-old Spokane Valley resident, was reported missing in December 2015 after deputies say he was beaten to death and dismembered after a drug deal went wrong. Investigators believe the suspects moved his body multiple times, first from a workshop at 7822 N. Starr Road, then to an area near Greenacres and Mount Spokane. It was never located by detectives.

In the yearslong investigation, detectives interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and tracked Snow’s cellphone records, leading them to charge Sutton, 40, who was already in jail for a federal drug conviction. Two other suspects, Alvaro Guajardo, 53, and Colby D. Vodder, 28, previously were arrested in connection with Snow’s disappearance and continue to be held on $1 million bonds.

Stone, the final suspect to be charged, was arrested after deputies say he “conspired with Cheryl L. Sutton as she organized, managed and directed several persons to engage in criminal activity for profit,” Deputy Mark Gregory, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, wrote 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 was first reported missing Dec. 15, 2015 – 13 days after he was seen getting a ride to the North Star Road property. Court records show his cellphone was pinging in that area until Dec. 3.

In June 2016, detectives searched the outbuilding, where they found traces of Snow’s blood and hair. However, because the workshop was renovated by new owners, the amount of blood shed could not be determined.

Until late 2015, court records show Sutton and Stone, who claimed to be married, rented the workshop, where they lived and sold meth and heroin. One witness interviewed by detectives said Snow had delivered drugs for Sutton and Vodder, until they became infuriated shortly before his disappearance because he accepted a trade, rather than cash, while making a drug delivery.

Other witnesses reported Vodder bragged that he and Guajardo “took care” of Snow. Court records show one witness remembered Vodder showing her what she believed to be the murder weapon – a 2-foot-long instrument made of metal with “teeth on it” – as he held it in the air and waved it around.

As part of Vodder’s defense strategy, private defense attorney Joe Kuhlman filed a 126-page alternative suspect brief in late July, which argues Sutton and Stone are the only suspects.

Kuhlman said Friday he planned to hit his Oct. 22 trial date regardless of Stone’s testimony.

“The appearance of an 11th-hour witness for the state doesn’t deter our plans to go to trial on these charges,” he said.

Reporter Thomas Clouse contributed to this report.