Walla Walla gang member pleads guilty to knife attacks

Fernando Saenz Jr. faces 21 1/2 to 28 1/2 years in prison for his role in an assault in March.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man accused of stabbing multiple victims in a bloody, gang-related melee outside a residence on Center Street in March pleaded guilty this morning to two of the attacks.

Fernando Saenz Jr., 23, of 440 Sprague Ave., faces more than two decades in prison after entering guilty pleas to two counts of first-degree assault. Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht will sentence Saenz later.

Saenz, an acknowledged gang member, admitted at this morning's plea hearing that he armed himself with a knife and stabbed Juan P. Robles, 22, and Luis Camargo, 42, who had arrived at a birthday party about 2:15 a.m. March 13 at 1306 Center. Officials said Robles and Camargo -- in addition to two other assault victims that morning -- have no known gang affiliation. They reportedly had dropped by the party, which was being thrown for a daughter of the person renting the home, to retrieve a coat for a woman who had left earlier.

The standard-range penalty for the crimes totals 211/2 to 281/2 years. In a plea agreement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden is recommending Saenz be sentenced to the low end of the range. Golden also agreed not to charge Saenz in an unrelated, recent assault on a fellow County Jail inmate.

In all, five men were wounded in the violence outside the Center Street home. Officials said the victims either were stabbed by Saenz or shot by fellow gang member and co-defendant Jacihel Contreras, 26, of 420 N. Sixth Ave., who was armed with a semiautomatic handgun -- or both stabbed and shot.

Saenz would have faced decades longer in prison had he been convicted of five counts of first-degree assault, as initially charged. But Golden said in an interview that the plea agreement dismissing three of the charges "really accurately reflects, for the most part, what (Saenz) did."

Officials at first believed that Osman Roblero, 21, the victim most seriously injured, had been stabbed and shot twice in the chest. But they later learned Roblero did not actually suffer stab wounds. Therefore that charge against Saenz would have had to be dismissed regardless of any plea agreement.

Another of the charges accused Saenz of stabbing co-defendant Contreras, but a conviction on that charge would have been problematic because the wound apparently was inflicted by mistake, Golden said.

The final stabbing victim, Roblero's brother, Alan Roblero, 22, also was shot, allegedly by Contreras. Golden told the Union-Bulletin he has offered Contreras a similar plea deal to the one Saenz accepted. If Contreras accepts, he would plead guilty to two counts of first-degree assault for shooting the Robleros.

"We wanted all four of the victims to be covered as far as the pleas go and this will do it," Golden said.

If Contreras decides not to accept the agreement, he is scheduled to stand trial Aug. 31.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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