Moment of rage led to Lake Ballinger killing, police say

Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Britney Galindez may have been choked, stabbed, held under water and left for dead all because she got sick in a car.

The 17-year-old girl found floating in Lake Ballinger likely was killed after she threw up during a night of drinking, apparently angering her friends, according to a police affidavit.

On Tuesday, police alleged that Robert C. Langendoerfer, 21, a convicted felon and known gang member, was responsible for the girl’s death. His bail was set at $1 million. He’s been jailed for investigation of first-degree murder.

“In a moment of derangement, he strangled and stabbed her and threw her body in the lake,” Mountlake Terrace police Sgt. Doug Hansen said Tuesday.

Police said they are looking for Mario “Pelon” Ibanez, 17, who may have witnessed the killing. Hansen encouraged the teenager to turn himself in. A third man remains at large.

Since the girl’s body was found Oct. 21, police have been engaged in a “persistent” investigation, retracing her final days and hours, Hansen said.

A break in the case came Monday night when two witnesses recounted watching the girl’s killing early Oct. 14, Hansen said.

Galindez was last seen with four friends at a fast-food restaurant in the Lake City area, the detective said.

Police haven’t said how they believe Galindez wound up in the Honda Accord with five young men. The group, all highly intoxicated, apparently drove around south Snohomish County.

Two people, including Galindez, threw up in the car. That made the others angry, according to a document filed Tuesday in Everett District Court.

The group drove to the Lake Ballinger boat ramp to clean out the car, Hansen said.

That’s where witnesses told police Langendoerfer allegedly got on top of Galindez, began to choke her and then stabbed her in the neck with a screwdriver, the court document said.

Police believe Langendoerfer threw the teenager into the water, waded in after her and held her head under for about five minutes until she was dead, the document said.

“It shocks the conscience of good people,” Hansen said.

Police have impounded the car the group drove the night of the killing. The screwdriver has not been recovered.

Langendoerfer is well known to police throughout south Snohomish County, Hansen said. Mountlake Terrace detectives arrested him Monday night in the Snohomish County Jail, where he already was being held.

He was jailed Saturday for investigation of first-degree malicious mischief involving graffiti found at basketball court near Horizon Elementary, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.

Court documents indicate Langendoerfer has been building a criminal record since he was a teenager. Up until 2004, there was no indication of violent crimes. Instead, court records paint a picture of a teenage boy without a stable home who developed a problem with alcohol and marijuana. He had run-ins with police over shoplifting beer, riding in stolen cars and being drunk in public, court documents show.

In 2004, Langendoerfer was arrested when he and two friends attacked a woman after breaking into her house. They roughed her up and robbed her of more than $1,000. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault and felony malicious mischief. Over the next couple of years he was in and out of jail for probation violations, including failing to get drug treatment and committing other crimes.

His corrections officer in 2006 noted that Langendoerfer was claiming affiliation with gangs, including the Mexican Mafia. The officer called Langendoerfer a risk to the community.

Langendoerfer and Ibanez are known members of the Florencia 13 gang, police said. Members of that gang, including Ibanez, were involved in a shooting against rival MS-13 gang members outside the Northgate Mall in Seattle in February. Police believe the gunfire in Seattle led to a drive-by shooting by MS-13 members in south Everett in June.

In the last eight months Langendoerfer has been active with Florencia 13, said police tracking gangs in Snohomish County. He has gang-related tattoos on his hands and face, according to court documents.

Police believe Galindez was a member of Vatos Locos 13 street gang. She may have been the only member of her gang in the car the night she died. The others were members of another street gang, but not known rivals, Hansen said.

Police do not believe the killing was the result of a gang dispute. Still, running with gang members is “a recipe for tragic circumstances,” Hansen said.

The killing should serve as a warning to other kids to get out of gangs before it’s too late, said Gabe Morales, who has worked in gang prevention for 30 years. He runs the Des Moines-based Gang Prevention Services and is vice president of the International Latino Gang Investigators Association.

“It sounds like she was killed by people she knew, her own homeboys,” Morales said. “If they’re willing to do that to her, they’d be willing to do it to anyone.”

Hansen said the girl’s mother expressed relief that a suspect was in custody. The girl’s stepfather, Daniel Bittick, also was pleased.

“I’m glad they caught him,” Bittick said.

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