News

One of four defendants in North Whidbey murder pleads guilty, agrees to testify against others

Brian Rayford appears in court at an earlier hearing with his attorney, Jennifer Bouwens.  - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Brian Rayford appears in court at an earlier hearing with his attorney, Jennifer Bouwens.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

One of the four people accused in the murder last fall of an Oak Harbor teenager pleaded guilty today.

Brian Rayford, 20, admitted to shooting and killing 17-year-old John "Jay" Johnson. As part of the plea agreement, he provided a recorded statement about the murder and agreed to testify against his three codefendants.

David Nunez Jr., 19, Kitana Hernandez, 19, and Derek Reeder, 16, are also facing murder charges in Island County Superior Court and are being held in jail.

Rayford implicated the others in a statement he wrote as part of the guilty plea.

"I did not act alone," he wrote. "It was David Nunez' idea and he supplied the gun. The plan was discussed at his house. Kitana Hernandez was there and she drove David Nunez, Derek Reeder and myself to John Johnson's house. Derek Reeder went with me to the house and saw the gun, and knew the plan was to shoot John Johnson."

Rayford pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Under the plea bargain, a special firearms allegation — which would have increased the sentence — was dismissed.

The plea agreement filed in court states that Rayford will not be sentenced until after the other three have gone to trial or had their cases otherwise adjudicated. If Rayford upholds his end of the deal, the prosecutor will recommend a mid-range sentence of 24 years and three-and-a-half months.

According to the detective's report, Rayford carried out the "hit" against Johnson because Nunez was upset over a $400 impound fee. Johnson had borrowed Nunez's car and it was impounded by the Washington State Patrol.

A report by Detective Ed Wallace with the Island County Sheriff's Office indicates that Hernandez drove Rayford, Reeder and Nunez to Johnson's house on North Whidbey on the night of Nov. 10, 2015.

Rayford and Reeder walked up to the house together. After speaking with Johnson briefly at the front door, Rayford pulled a .22-caliber handgun "out of the pocket of his hoodie, pointed the gun at Johnson, closed his eyes, turned his head and pulled the trigger," Wallace wrote.

Rayford didn't see where he shot Johnson because he and Reeder ran back to the car, the report states. Nunez and Hernandez later threw the gun into the water off West Beach, Wallace wrote.

Early in the morning of Nov. 11, a friend of the Johnson family called 911 after finding the young man unconscious and bleeding at his home. Johnson was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered he had a gunshot wound to the head. He was airlifted to Harborview, but never regained consciousness. He was pronounced dead Nov. 13.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Aug 20
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates