WENATCHEE — A onetime suspect in the murder of Mackenzie Cowell was sentenced Monday to three years in prison on an unrelated drug case.
Emmanuel “Buddha” Cerros Sanchez, 27, of Malaga pleaded guilty to selling two grams of heroin to a police informant in October 2012. His sentence includes a one-year period of community supervision after he’s released from prison.
Cerros and another previously convicted drug dealer, Samuel Cuevas, now 32, were early suspects in the 2010 murder of 17-year-old Wenatchee High School student Mackenzie Cowell, who went missing from downtown Wenatchee that February. Her body was later found on the shoreline of Crescent Bar. A fellow student of Cowell’s at a Wenatchee hairstyling academy, Christopher Scott Wilson, now 31, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in her death just days before his trial for first-degree murder was to commence last May.
Court records show that police investigated Cerros and Cuevas heavily in spring 2010, after a confidential informant claimed the two men had admitted in her presence to murdering Cowell. The multi-agency Mackenzie Cowell Task Force wiretapped phone calls to Cuevas and Cerros, and even secretly purchased Cuevas’ green Jeep Cherokee to comb it for evidence, believing it might have been used in abducting the victim.
Later, the informant led police to a ring partially buried in the dirt on Crescent Bar Road, which she claimed belonged to Cowell and had been lost during the murder. Cigarette butts scattered near the site of the ring’s discovery yielded DNA that matched that of Cuevas.
But Cowell’s family didn’t recognize the ring, which did not have recoverable DNA on its surface, and police said they began to mistrust the informant after she admitted lying about some aspects of her tips.
Cuevas and Cerros were interviewed by police and denied involvement. Each provided alibis, including witness statements and cellphone records, that put them elsewhere for most of the day when Cowell was believed to have been murdered.
However, both were on the verge of being called as witnesses in Wilson’s trial after then-Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges agreed to allow evidence that Cerros and Cuevas might have committed the crime.
Wilson is nearly one year into the 14-year prison sentence negotiated in the plea agreement between defense lawyer John Henry Browne and then-Prosecuting Attorney Gary Riesen. He was arrested in October 2010, after police found what they said was Cowell’s blood staining the carpet and underpad of his apartment at 119 Okanogan St., and genetic material matching Cowell’s blood and Wilson’s paternal DNA type on a length of duct tape recovered near the victim’s body.
Cerros could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison under the standard range for his heroin charge. He previously served nine months on electronic home monitoring in 2011 for conspiracy to deliver Oxycontin and methadone. Cuevas was sentenced to a year in prison in August 2010 for possession of methamphetamine and heroin; he has not been charged in any subsequent Washington felonies.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123