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Two charged in murder of islander plead guilty
"Two suspects in the Oct. 10 murder of a South Whidbey man face lengthy prison terms after pleading guilty to charges filed in the case.Paul Sarkis, Jr., 19, of Langley and TaLee Colter, 20, of Mukilteo, initially faced charges of aggravated first degree murder following the stabbing death of Clinton resident Edward F. Ross, 24.But the two suspects plead guilty to lesser charges before a Cowlitz County judge last month in exchange for sentencing leniency.Sarkis plead guilty to first-degree felony murder, while Colter agreed to a charge of first-degree manslaughter.The pair's Dec. 3 admission of guilt came well before a hearing last Thursday in which a Cowlitz County Superior Court judge granted the county's prosecuting attorney a continuance for the murder trial, originally scheduled for Jan. 31.Two other suspects in the murder -- Jesse Osalde, 19, formerly of South Whidbey, and Angel Fernandez, 34, of Oak Harbor -- will now stand trial on charges of aggravated murder and first-degree felony murder on May 1. If convicted, the two men could be sentenced to life in prison.The four allegedly conspired to kidnap Ross last Oct. 7 from the Mukilteo ferry line. According to the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, the kidnappers drove with Ross though Snohomish County and down the length of Whidbey Island over the course of a day, allegedly trying to acquire drugs and money. Later, Sarkis, Osalde, and Fernandez drove Ross to a remote location in Cowlitz County, where they allegedly stabbed him to death.Although it is unusual for criminal suspects to plead guilty to charges as severe as those assigned to Sarkis and Colter, Cowlitz County Prosecutor Sue Baur said Monday that pleading out was about the only way the two could avoid life in prison.In exchange for the lesser charge, Sarkis will have to give the prosecution something it needs.He's going to testify in the case, Bauer said.At sentencing, Sarkis will receive between 20 and 26 years in prison. Colter will be locked up between six and eight years.Baur said her office was willing to allow Colter to plead to a less serious crime than Sarkis because she did not actively participate in the murder.She had nothing to do with bringing Ed Ross down here, Baur said.Osalde and Fernandez chose not to make a deal with the prosecutor's office. Baur said it is unlikely that they will before the trial.We are not going to deal with them, as far as I know, she said.All four murder suspects will remain in Cowlitz County Jail until after the trial is finished. At that point, those who plead guilty or who are found guilty will receive their sentences."