Dori: Mother of slain son believes justice system for teens ‘doesn’t make much sense’

May 3, 2022, 5:01 PM | Updated: May 4, 2022, 8:54 am

The mother of a 22-year-old man shot and killed in a Renton Safeway parking lot last fall told The Dori Monson Show that she is nervously anticipating a King County Superior Court ruling involving the 14-year-old accused shooter.

Maggie Perez Zuniga was on a mission trip in El Salvador when she got the call about the murder of her son, Marc Valladolid, a praise and worship leader at his church.

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“Unfortunately, our justice system – when it comes to juveniles – doesn’t make much sense,” Zuniga told Dori’s listeners.

“Until it happens to one of us, that’s when our eyes are opened,” she added.

What Zuniga has learned since her son’s murder is that the teen boy wanted in the case will appear in court to determine whether he should be tried as an adult.

It is still unclear, the mom told Dori, whether the King County Superior Juvenile Court case will go before Judge Averil Rothrock. She is the same judge who released 14- and 15-year-old boys on electronic ankle monitors awaiting trial for their alleged robbery and pistol-whipping of a Federal Way pawnshop owner earlier this year.

According to King County prosecutors, the teens cut off their devices. Days later, Tacoma Police reported the same two robbed a Tacoma’s World of Weed and killed employee Jordan Brown, 29, in the process.

In her son’s case, Zuniga said, the accused teen is expected to appear in court later this month to determine whether the boy should be tried as an adult. According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the boy fled in a minivan driven by his teen girlfriend’s mother after shooting Valladolid four times in what appears to be an unprovoked attack on Oct. 29, 2021.

Three months later, Renton Police tracked down the boy after he connected to a second killing – this one in a separate Renton grocery store parking lot on Jan. 12. In that case, Anthony Pace, 54, was shot four times by an assailant matching the description of Zuniga’s son’s alleged shooter. KIRO Newsradio is not naming the teen because he is a minor.

Police made the connection using security video taken at both scenes.

Trying a younger teen – even one involved in two separate murders – as an adult is extraordinarily difficult, Dori told listeners.

“It is very, very hard – but not impossible,” Zuniga agreed. “That’s why we’re reaching out to the community to raise awareness, to let the justice system, and judges and politicians know that they are being elected to protect our community, protect our people.”

The accused teen needs to be held as long as possible because “he is not able to function in society without violence and guns,” she added.

Zuniga told Dori that many leaders fail the understand the severity of her loss. She points to a “lack of empathy (because violence) has not come knocking on their door. That’s why they can go about making laws or supporting laws that are archaic or to their benefit.”

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Her son, Mark, she said, was “an awesome musician and singer” who was also a mechanic, preparing to open his first shop with his dad this year.

“My faith is what has kept me from going crazy,” Zuniga said. “It’s why I’m reaching out to do something positive in the community.”

Even in her sadness, “I forgive this kid, Dori,” the grieving mom added. “So many people have failed him in his life.”

Update 5.4:

Maggie Perez Zuniga tells KIRO Newsradio that the defense has withdrawn its motion to release the suspect on an ankle monitor since the publishing of this article.

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Mother of slain son believes justice system for teens ‘doesn’t make much sense’