MS-13 gang member changes plea, avoids death penalty for 2017 slaying of Lynchburg teen


Kevin Soto Bonilla changed his plea Thursday for his role in the brutal stabbing death of Lynchburg teenager Raymond Wood in March 2017.

Soto Bonilla had previously plead not guilty to all charges.

On Wednesday, jurors deliberated for about two and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict on the charges of capital murder, abduction, and gang participation. Soto Bonilla was found not guilty of a robbery charge.

Thursday afternoon Soto Bonilla changed his plea to guilty on the three charges for which he had previously been found guilty. As part of the sentencing agreement, he waives his right to an appeal.

“I’m very sorry to the Wood family. I regretfully feel it from my heart,” Soto Bonilla said through a translator prior to his sentencing.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the capital murder conviction. For the abduction charge, he was sentenced to life. For gang participation, he received a sentence of ten years. The sentences will run consecutively.

The Commonwealth argued in the week-long trial that Soto Bonilla and other MS-13 gang members killed Wood because they wanted to take over the drug trade in the area and they perceived Wood, who sold marijuana, as an economic rival. The defense argued that theory was inaccurate and that Wood was killed because of a personal vendetta co-defendants had against him.

Last year, co-defendant Victor Rodas was found guilty of first degree murder, abduction, and gang participation for his role in the crime. Two others have already plead guilty to charges related to their involvement and two others are still awaiting trial. In total, six men, all of whom are alleged to be MS-13 gang members, have been charged in connection to Wood’s murder.

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