Soto Bonilla

Kevin Josue Soto-Bonilla during looks down during closing statements on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at the Bedford County Courthouse.

BEDFORD — An MS-13 gang member convicted of capital murder in the death of a Lynchburg teen will spend the rest of his life behind bars, a judge ruled Thursday.

Under an agreement reached with prosecutors, Kevin Josue Soto Bonilla accepted responsibility for his role in the brutal killing of 17-year-old Raymond Wood and waived his right to appeal the conviction.

“I am sorry to the Wood family,” Sotto Bonilla said through a translator after abruptly pleading guilty.

Soto Bonilla, 22, is the second of his co-defendants to stand trial in Wood’s 2017 death: Victor Arnoldo Rodas was convicted last year of first-degree murder among other charges and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

Two others, Lisandro Antonio Posada-Vasquez and Juan Martin Hernandez, have pleaded guilty to capital murder and being an accessory after the fact to murder.

Along with the capital murder charge, a jury found Soto Bonilla guilty of gang participation and abduction for pecuniary benefit Wednesday. He was found not guilty of a robbery charge.

As part of the surprise sentencing agreement, Bedford Circuit Court Judge James Updike affirmed a life sentence for capital murder, a life sentence for abduction and a 10-year sentence for gang participation. The sentences will run consecutively and he will not be eligible for parole.

The last-minute plea prevented a jury from deciding if Soto Bonilla would face the death penalty and came after emotional testimony from Marjorie Stagno, Wood’s mother.

Through tears, Stagno testified that Wood’s abduction from their Coronado Lane home on March 17, 2017 changed her life “tremendously.” Overwhelming grief prevented her from holding down a stable job and she eventually moved from her Lynchburg home.

“I couldn’t bear to drive in and out of that driveway knowing that he was taken from that driveway,” she said.

Soto Bonilla was one of four men sent to Lynchburg from Maryland to help in Wood’s killing, according to testimony in the case. Rodas and another gang member living in Lynchburg decided to kill him after they exchanged threats and decided to take Wood’s marijuana business from him.

The group drove to Wood’s home under the pretext of a weed deal, pulled him into a car and drove to Roaring Run Road in the Goode area of Bedford County.

There, they dragged him out of the car, stabbed him with a knife a number of times, cut his throat, severed his right hand and fled on foot. A passing motorist noticed Wood’s body.

Soto Bonilla and one co-defendant were able to escape and avoided arrest for six months before they were arrested. More than a dozen witnesses took the stand for four days’ of testimony, including three self-admitted MS-13 members who took part in the events surrounding Wood’s death.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547. 

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