Police nab second suspect in Yakima River Canyon homicides

The man believed to have killed two Yakima men in December before their bodies were left in the Yakima River Canyon was arrested early Friday in Western Washington, authorities said.

Jose Alfonso Pineda, 23, was arrested without incident at a motel in Des Moines, in south King County, police said.

He was tracked there by the Yakima County Violent Crimes Task Force and Des Moines police. Yakima police Capt. Rod Light said officers began trying to find Pineda on Thursday and soon learned he had headed for the Seattle area.

Yakima police say they believe Pineda is responsible for the shooting deaths of Michael Kevin Eby Jr., 36, and Ryan Michael Pederson, 35. Their bodies were found Dec. 21 in a car just off State Route 821 near the Yakima River’s Roza Dam.

Light said the investigation is continuing. While detectives believe they have arrested the primary suspects, Light did not rule out the possibility of more arrests.

“That’s unknown yet,” he said, explaining that detectives were continuing Friday to interview Pineda and others with potential knowledge of the case.

Light said earlier that the dispute that led to the homicides may have been connected to drugs or money.

Pederson has been described as a friend of Eby’s who happened to be with him that night. The others were already acquainted, Light said.

Pineda was expected to make his first court appearance in King County before being transferred to a local jail. The investigation has been shared by Yakima police and Kittitas County sheriff’s deputies because the car was found just inside Kittitas County.

The first suspect, Troy Whalen of Yakima, was arrested Wednesday night and appeared Thursday in Yakima County Superior Court. His remains in jail on $2 million bail.

According to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Yakima County Superior Court, detectives believe Eby was killed at Whalen’s home in the 2900 block of Hathaway Street. Detectives said Whalen told them Eby was killed in his garage and that he provided material to wrap Eby’s body.

The affidavit also alleged that Whalen told detectives that he helped dispose of Eby’s body in the Yakima River Canyon and that Pederson was still alive in the back seat of the vehicle when they left Whalen’s house.

The bodies were discovered after a passing motorist reported an abandoned car with its motor running.

A state trooper responded to the scene and found Pederson’s body in the back seat with an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

Detectives said he had been shot three times and that several 9 mm shell casings were found in the car, suggesting he was shot there.

Eby’s body was found in the trunk of the car, which belonged to his father. Detectives said Eby had been shot four times. His body was wrapped in a combination of garbage bags, a fitted bed sheet and a blanket tied with rope, an electrical cord and wire. His ankles were bound as well.

The area is north of Selah in the Yakima River Canyon and just across the Kittitas County line. Yakima police have been working on the case with Kittitas County sheriff’s detectives because the victims were from Yakima.

Detectives broke the case through a combination of cellphone records and witness statements, according to the affidavit.