A 23-year-old man serving 15 years in prison for a 2017 gang killing in Burien was charged Monday with two counts of second-degree murder, accused of gunning down a young woman and a girl in March 2018 at a Burien apartment complex over gang graffiti, according to King County prosecutors.

The shooting deaths of Eveona Cortez, 19, and Elizabeth Juarez, 13, were part of a long-running gang war between Francisco Montero’s gang, the United Lokotes, and several other South King County street gangs. But the killings of Cortez and Juarez remained a raw wound for the Burien community because “they were just kids” when they died, said Ted Boe, who became Burien’s police chief soon after the shootings.

Following the September 2018 death of a woman who was killed by a stray bullet, a collaboration between police and the Burien community led to several arrests and creation of gang intervention and prevention programs that “still live today,” Boe said. As a result, he said hostilities between the gangs has largely cooled since then.

Elizabeth Juarez, 13, was shot and killed on March 28, 2018, at a Burien apartment complex. (Courtesy of the Juarez family)

Juarez — who allegedly spray-painted graffiti directed at Montero after learning he had moved in with his girlfriend at the Alturas @ Burien apartment complex — was Montero’s primary target, charging papers say.

“It has been a heavy burden to my family to lose Elizabeth but a sense of relief that those responsible will be held accountable,” according to a statement from the Juarez family provided by the prosecutor’s office on Monday. “Today is about justice for Elizabeth and Eveona. We lost two beautiful young women to (an) act of violence that affected our families and extended families and the young lives that witnessed this unfortunate tragedy.”

Eveona Cortez, 19, was shot and killed at a Burien apartment complex March 28, 2018. (Courtesy of the Cortez family)

Montero is incarcerated at the Clallum Bay Corrections Center on the Olympic Peninsula, according to the state Department of Corrections website. He pleaded guilty in September 2019 to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Erasmo Plata, 21, on April 12, 2017, court records show. Plata, a member of a rival gang, was shot in retaliation for the killing of Arturo Marcial Alvarez, a member of Montero’s gang, who was killed in Federal Way a day earlier, the records say.

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Court records do not indicate which attorney is representing Montero on the most recent charges. Once he is returned to King County, he’ll remain in custody on a no-bail hold, court records show.

Around 9:30 p.m. on March 28, 2018, King County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the apartment complex in the 1100 block of Southwest 139th Street and found Cortez and Juarez unresponsive on the ground, say the murder charges filed Monday. A can of black spray paint was tucked inside a large purse near where they had fallen. Both died soon after they arrived at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Autopsies showed that Juarez had been shot in the back of the head and thigh and Cortez suffered four gunshot wounds to her abdomen, head and leg, charges say.

Witnesses described two shooters and said a third person was behind the wheel of a running car, which the gunmen ran to after shooting Cortez and Juarez, according to the charges. One witness, who was friends with the victims, saw a red laser light on the wall behind the victims right before hearing gunfire. Nineteen 9 mm shell casings and seven casings from a .45-caliber handgun were collected from the scene — and Montero’s DNA was later found on the 9 mm casings, say the charges.

Detectives noticed there was a lot of gang graffiti in and around the apartment complex, including tags that read “ULK” — shorthand for United Lokotes Killer — and “Serio Killa” with the “UL” and “Serio,” Montero’s gang moniker, crossed out in a sign of disrespect, say the charges.

There were also tags that read “SSL lilox3” — a reference to Juarez’s gang, the South Side Locos, and her moniker, “Lil Oxe,” according to the charges. Cortez was associated with the Callejones Escondidos Surenos and went by “Esa Dowxer,” the charges say.

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Juarez had been tagging the complex in the month before her death but the charges say there is no indication that Cortez was involved.

Detectives got a warrant and searched the room where Montero and his girlfriend were staying and found a revolver, a 9 mm magazine, a laser sight for a handgun, loose ammunition in various calibers and writing confirming Montero’s gang affiliation, the charges say.

During the investigation, detectives were able to disprove Montero’s alibi that he and his girlfriend were in Federal Way at the time of the shootings. They obtained warrants to search their phones and social-media accounts, as well as accounts belonging to Montero’s UL associates, and found messages, photos and videos referencing the double homicide, charging papers say.