Port Angeles woman found guilty of witness tampering

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles woman who pleaded guilty Monday to rendering criminal assistance in the death of Jennifer Pimentel in October 2011 was found guilty Wednesday of tampering with two witnesses in an attempt to cover up the death.

In a bench trial, Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor found Kendell K. Huether, 26, of Port Angeles guilty of two counts of tampering with a witness.

According to court documents, she induced William Purcell and Ryan Mongar to lie to authorities about when they last saw Pimentel after the 27-year-old woman was reported missing.

At the time, Huether already knew that Pimentel had been strangled to death by Kevin A. Bradfield, according to court documents, and she had helped him disposed of the body.

Purcell and Mongar didn't know Pimentel's fate, authorities said.

But Huether told Purcell, the father of her two children, and Mongar to lie by saying they had last seen Pimentel get into a silver Jeep with an unknown man in downtown Port Angeles, when they actually had last seen Pimentel at the R Bar downtown.

In his ruling, Taylor pointed to a state statute that says that tampering with a witness includes inducing someone who may have information relevant to a criminal investigation to withhold that information from authorities.

The lie fostered by Huether “completely deflected attention from Mr. Bradfield and Ms. Huether,” Taylor ruled.

“By not telling what really happened, you are withholding the information that you have, which is the truth.”

Bradfield, 23, will be sentenced at 9 a.m. today in Clallam County Superior Court for first-degree premeditated murder for killing Pimentel, who was developmentally disabled and was friends with Bradfield and Huether.

He has pleaded guilty to the charge, for which prosecutors and his defense attorney have recommended a sentence of 20 years.

Huether will be sentenced at 9 a.m. May 15 to rendering criminal assistance and to the two counts of tampering with a witness, a Class C felony.

Bradfield admitted he strangled Pimentel in Huether's apartment late in the evening of Oct. 9, 2011, or early Oct. 10, 2011, and disposed of her body in a wooded area near the Hood Canal Bridge.

Huether admitted Monday to rendering criminal assistance in Pimentel's death.

She also said she helped dispose of Pimentel's body.

During more than four hours of taped interviews with authorities that were played Tuesday and Wednesday at Huether's bench trial, Huether is heard telling Port Angeles Police Officer Ted Rife that she saw Bradfield strangle Pimentel in Huether's apartment and did nothing to stop him.

“I should have done what my head told me to do in the first place,” Huether is heard saying.

“I should have called 9-1-1.”

Purcell and Mongar enter the picture on or about Oct. 10 to Oct. 13, according to court documents.

At the time, authorities were treating Pimentel's disappearance as a missing-person report, and Huether and Bradfield were denying they had anything to do with her absence.

Huether's attorney, Karen Unger of Port Angeles, argued that Purcell and Mongar were not witnesses because Huether had no reason to believe they had information that was relevant to a criminal investigation.

“You can't be guilty of witness tampering if you create a witness that may be able to hurt you,” Unger said.

But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ann Lundwall said Huether had a plan in mind.

“It is clear the defendant believed the red herring about the man in the silver Jeep would have a significant impact on the police investigation based on her seeking out Purcell and Mongar,” Lundwall said.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 24. 2013 6:24PM
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