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Innocent Plea in Shipyard Slayings

January 19, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) _ A former shipyard employee pleaded innocent Wednesday to killing two men and wounding two others in a November attack.

Kevin William Cruz, 30, entered the plea in King County Superior Court. Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Cruz was charged Jan. 7 with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is being held on $4 million bail.

Peter Giles, 27, and Russell James Brisendine, 43, were gunned down Nov. 3 inside the offices of the Northlake Shipyard, setting off a massive but unsuccessful manhunt in the surrounding neighborhood. Both victims were shipyard employees.

Cruz was fired from the shipyard in January 1999. Prosecutors say Cruz was angry at his bosses because he had claimed a work-related disability, but his benefits were canceled when the shipyard’s insurance carrier concluded he was not injured.

Prosecutors say he grew a beard for the crime, then shaved and got a new driver’s license the next day.

Defense lawyer Eric Lindell has suggested his client was set up as a scapegoat.

Cruz was arrested after a bicyclist spotted a weathered backpack hidden in some bushes near the shipyard. The pack contained a 9 mm semiautomatic _ later determined to be the murder weapon _ as well as ammunition and clothing.

Cruz was already under scrutiny for a burglary near his home in which such a gun was stolen, and he acknowledged that the backpack was his.

According to charging papers, Cruz ``claims to have serious mental problems and states that he hears voices.″ Prosecutors say he had never been evaluated or treated by the state for mental illness, though he has an extensive criminal record.

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