Posted on September 16, 2004

Coach’s Murder May Have Been Part of Gang Initiation

Bryan Johnson, KOMO-1000 (Seattle), Sep. 9

BENTON COUNTY — Prosecutors now think the killing of a popular high school football coach was gang related.

Two teens were arrested Wednesday in connection with the murder of Bob Mars in Benton City. His body was found Sunday at Kiona-Benton Middle School where he was a teacher.

Prosecutors have released pictures of the teen they say killed Mars. They are asking that both Robert A. Suarez, 16, and Jordan E. Castillo, 14, be tried as adults.

Suarez is charged with 1st degree murder, Castillo is charged with 1st degree aggravated murder. They’ll both be in court Friday.

“There is probable cause to believe that Mr. Castillo committed the murder to advance his standing in a gang,” said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller.

“Mr. Castillo did have tattooing on the web of his hand the very next day after the homicide. That tattoo is consistent with the gang he was being initiated into,” explained Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor.

Suarez is believed to have recruited Castillo and convinced him to kill.

“The evidence indicates that Mr. Castillo is the one who actually did the stabbing, whereas Mr. Suarez was an accomplice to the robbery,” said Miller. “Under the felony murder rule he is still guilty of murder in the 1st degree.”

Mars’ truck was found in the school parking lot on Sunday. A vehicle window had been broken and the truck appeared to have been ransacked, according to court papers. Missing were an envelope containing about $300 in cash and the coach’s cell phone.

As for Coach Mars, the Sheriff and Prosecutors both say the killing was planned but the victim was random.