King County prosecutors say a 24-year-old Des Moines man was the mastermind behind a home-invasion robbery in Kent last month that left one man dead and a second man seriously injured.
Reno Vaitului, who was known to the residents of a house in the 24000 block of 35th Avenue South as “Uso” and “Swayze,” was charged Monday with first-degree murder in connection with the May 12 shooting death of 46-year-old Dennis Wyatt and second-degree assault for the attack on one of Wyatt’s roommates, court records say. Vaitului, who was convicted as a juvenile of second-degree robbery and is not legally allowed to possess guns, was also charged with first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, charging papers say.
Arrested June 10 outside his Des Moines residence, Vaitului was initially held on $1 million bail, but bail was increased to $2 million after prosecutors learned the assault victim had suffered a severe head injury, broken ribs, partially collapsed lungs and internal bleeding, say the charges.
“The defendant was not a passive participant in this crime. Instead, he was the catalyst for this home invasion robbery that led to the shooting death of victim Wyatt,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor William Doyle wrote in charging papers. “The defendant was the one who knew the victims and the residence. He used that knowledge and trust to work his way into the victims’ home, only to bring along with him two masked accomplices with guns and zip ties. The defendant and his accomplices tied two victims up and when Mr. Wyatt walked downstairs in response to cries for help, his life was ended in a rain of gunfire.”
Though Vaitului is not the suspected shooter, under state law he is considered equally culpable for Wyatt’s killing as an accomplice. He is charged with first-degree murder because Wyatt was fatally shot during the commission of a robbery, the charges say.
The charges do not indicate whether Kent police have identified Vaitului’s alleged accomplices.
According to the charges:
Just after 5 a.m. May 12, a woman surreptitiously called 911 and told a dispatcher that armed men were assaulting her boyfriend. A minute into the call, the woman said, “They shot him,” and a minute after that, she told a dispatcher the assailants had left.
Officers arrived and found Wyatt dead, shot in in the chest, arm and leg. A second man was bleeding and severely injured with a head wound.
The woman told police the injured man was her boyfriend and the couple lived in the home with two roommates, Wyatt and another man who was not home during the robbery. She told officers a man she knew as “Uso” came to their house that morning, visited with her boyfriend for about five minutes, then left to get something from his car. When he returned, he was accompanied by two masked men and at least one of them had a rifle.
The masked men demanded money and told the woman and her boyfriend to get on the floor. She noticed that Uso remained standing, which led her to believe he was involved.
One of the men used zip ties on the woman and her boyfriend; he fought back and Uso struck him in the head with a metal rod, the charges say. The man called out to Wyatt for help and Wyatt was shot by one of the masked assailants when he came down the stairs.
The assailants took the victims’ wallets and stole marijuana and a laptop from the home, the charges say.
During the investigation, detectives learned Uso had sold a Chevy Blazer to the injured man a month earlier and the vehicle was registered to a woman later identified as Vaitului’s girlfriend. The roommate who wasn’t present during the robbery said he had known “Uso/Swayze” for six months and directed police to a Des Moines motel Uso was known to frequent.
At the motel, detectives located a Cadillac with a temporary registration taped to its rear window and noticed it appeared to be the same Cadillac seen in video-surveillance footage from a house four blocks from the Kent homicide scene. The Cadillac was also registered to Vaitului’s girlfriend.
Police impounded and searched the Cadillac and found a .22-caliber rifle and a loaded gun magazine in the trunk. They also found several .22 caliber bullets throughout the car, a mask on the front passenger seat and zip ties in the cup holder and center console.
The surviving victims and their roommate all selected Vaitului’s photo from a police photo montage as the man they knew as Uso, say the charges, which note Vaitului has tattoos on his face that matched the victims’ description of him.