Crime - Sacto 911

Three men accused of murdering two missing Woodland teens plead not guilty

Jonathan Froste, 21, is arraigned in Yolo Superior Court on Friday, June 22, 2018, on suspicion of murdering two Woodland teenagers who disappeared in 2016. He is represented by attorney Ava Landers.
Jonathan Froste, 21, is arraigned in Yolo Superior Court on Friday, June 22, 2018, on suspicion of murdering two Woodland teenagers who disappeared in 2016. He is represented by attorney Ava Landers. Woodland Daily Democrat

Three of the men accused of killing two Woodland teenagers who disappeared in 2016 pleaded not guilty at their arraignment in Yolo Superior Court on Friday.

Chandale Shannon, 21, and Jonathan Froste, 21, were arrested and charged with murder earlier this month. Jonathan Froste's brother David Froste, 27, was already in prison for an unrelated case and was charged with murder at the hearing Friday, where all three entered their not-guilty pleas.

A fourth defendant, Jesus Campos, 18, was previously arraigned in juvenile court.

All the men are accused in the killings of Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore, two former students at Cesar Chavez Community School in Woodland. Rios was 16 and Moore 17 when they disappeared a few weeks apart. Woodland authorities partnered with the Yolo County Sheriff's Office and the FBI to investigate the disappearances.

Alicia Moore, Elijah's mother, said she thought the not-guilty pleas were ridiculous.

"They seemed really, really arrogant about it, real cocky," she said. "As if they have something that they have not provided that's gonna get them out of here. They killed my son, and they killed Enrique — two babies — and they're not getting away with this."

After submitting the not-guilty pleas, the three defense attorneys spent the majority of the arraignment arguing about how soon the preliminary hearing should occur. Public defender Martha Sequeira, representing David Froste, wanted it within 10 court days.

"These allegations against Mr. Froste are not new," she said. "Mr. Froste is eager to get the case moving forward."

But the two private attorneys representing the other defendants said they had just received more than 500 pages of discovery from the prosecution the night before, and needed more time to prepare.

"His life's at stake," said Ava Landers of client Jonathan Froste. "This is a murder case, and he has the right to have a counsel that's ready."

Ultimately, Commissioner Kent O'Mara decided to move forward with a speedy preliminary hearing, and told the dissenting attorneys to file a motion if they felt they could not be ready in time. The three men will have their hearing July 6 at 8:30 a.m. in Paul Richardson's courtroom.

Moore said she's glad the process is moving forward quickly.

"(I'm) pleased that they're in there, and not out here, with other people's children," she said. "Especially the Froste brothers, they don't need to be out. They should have never been born."

After the arraignment, Robert Spangler, Shannon's lawyer, was still processing the decision to hold the hearing within 10 days.

"Right now, I just need to think about what happened," he said. The public defender is "going to represent their client as they see fit, I have to represent my client as I see fit."

Spangler noted that pleading not guilty is different from being innocent.

"(Shannon) asserts that he's not guilty of this crime. There's a distinction between innocence and not being guilty of the crime charged," Spangler said. "When a person is guilty, facts are sufficient to establish that. Innocence is a completely different concept."

He described the upcoming preliminary hearing as a "winnowing process" that requires the prosecution to provide a small amount of evidence for each of their charges.

"Some of them aren't really substantiated, while others are," he said. "And the preliminary hearing is that spot where the court can sort out the wheat from the chaff."

Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden declined to comment on the case, but said he told the Moore and Rios families after the arraignment that the prosecution is "gonna do our job, and we'll be ready."

Related stories from Sacramento Bee