As Baron Li walked from his apartment to his car in Bellevue, Washington, one morning in July, he heard a loud crack that sounded like fireworks. When he turned around, he later told police, he saw a slender teenage boy holding a gun. The 48-year-old sales manager tried to shield himself with a car door, but two shots knocked him to the ground, the boy then shot him seven more times as he lay in the fetal position, somehow missing any major arteries or organs. Li survived the ambush. But the question remained: Who had tried so hard to kill him?
This week, prosecutors said they had finally cracked the mystery, charging Li’s ex-wife, Shaerin Rose Kelley, with orchestrating the hit, allegedly in a plot to get a trust fund set up for their disabled 6-year-old son, who had been locked in a custody battle, earlier this month, police arrested two 17-year-olds, Joseph Good and Quincy Mendez, and charged them with trying to kill Li in exchange for a $13,000 payout. In fact, authorities said, when Kelley, 30, learned that Li had survived, she quickly began planning with the teens to try again. Their failure to kill the victim was not for lack of effort,” prosecutors said in a memorandum asking a judge to set bail for the three people who were arrested last week for the crime. “He was shot multiple times at close range and left to die.
Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told The Washington Post that the county, which includes Seattle, has had 15 domestic violence homicides in 2020, that is more than the previous two years combined, with 2½ months left in the year, all but one of those homicides happened during the coronavirus pandemic, McNerthney said. The victim works as a sales manager for a car dealership and lived in an apartment complex in Bellevue, about 15 miles east of Seattle, his ex-wife filed for a divorce in 2015, according to court records. Li said his ex-wife had custody of their son until 2017, when Child Protective Services intervened due to neglect and placed him in foster care, after nearly two years, Li was granted primary custody of the boy. Kelley was allowed weekly visitations until March, when a judge ordered her visits to be supervised.
On July 10, as Li cowered behind his car door, the first two bullets hit him in the arm and leg, knocking him to the ground, according to court records. The boy walked around the car door and fired again and again, striking Li nine times in total, piercing his arm, legs, torso and hip. Some of the bullets shattered bones. But none of the wounds were life-threatening, bystanders who saw or heard the shooting quickly called 911, according to court records filed by King County prosecutors, and first responders rushed to stop Li’s bleeding with three tourniquets before he was taken to a Seattle hospital for surgery. Li told police that he did not know the boy who shot him. When investigators asked Li who might want him dead, he could think of only one person with a motive: Kelley. His ex-wife would inherit “significant funds” if she had sole custody of their son, police soon learned.
Even as police investigated the crime, Good and Kelley allegedly continued to plot against Li. Unaware that Li had survived the attack, Good asked Kelley several weeks after the shooting whether he would be paid soon, police said. Job unfinished, will need to complete unless it resolves on its own in the next month, Kelley texted, according to court records. Kelley allegedly told him that Li had survived, “unfortunately,” according to police records. Good allegedly agreed to try again, but asked for partial payment so that he could pay his driver, before they could try again, though, the three were arrested on Oct. 8, according to a police report. Police said Good was the alleged gunman, and that Mendez took his father’s pickup truck to play getaway driver. They said Kelley had hired the two teens from nearby Mount Vernon, Wash., promising to pay Good $13,000. Good allegedly offered his friend Mendez $5,000 to take him to Li’s home and play getaway driver.
Police say the pickup truck Mendez borrowed from his father was caught on surveillance footage near the scene of the shooting, allowing them to trace the license plate back to the boy. According to a police report, Mendez recounted his role in the crime in an interview with investigators, though Good and Kelley both invoked their right to an attorney. Officers also obtained phone records and emails that detailed how Kelley had allegedly contacted Good and arranged to pay him to carry out the shooting. Kelley allegedly placed a GPS-tracking device on her ex-husband’s car and then forwarded the location data to Good. Good and Mendez are charged with attempted murder, and Good also faces a charge for unlawful possession of a weapon. Kelley is charged with attempted murder with a domestic violence enhancer that makes it a capital offense. Court records do not say whether any of the suspects have defense attorneys yet.
On Wednesday, prosecutors asked a judge to hold Kelley without bail alleging that her plan to kill Li was “ongoing.” Rather than any remorse or realization of the horror of what she set in motion when the victim survived, it appears the intent to kill the victim was unabated,” prosecutors said in a memo filed with the court. “If Kelley is out of custody, then Baron Li’s life is at risk.