The Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO

The Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO

Florida couple charged with kidnapping baby from Federal Way

Both plead not guilty March 7 in Kent courtroom

King County prosecutors have filed charges against two Florida residents in a case involving the alleged kidnapping of a 7-month-old baby in Federal Way.

Prosecutors filed charges against 33-year-old Marrly Jarina Ardila-Urrego and 42-year-old Chun Ho Vincent Lai, both from Florida, on Feb. 22, two days following the kidnapping.

Both pleaded not guilty on Thursday, March 7 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Ardila-Urrego and Lai both face felony charges of kidnapping in the first degree with aggravating factors, burglary in the first degree with aggravating factors, assault of a child in the second degree with an aggravating factor, robbery in the first degree, and assault in the second degree.

According to an email from Casey McNerthney, director of communications for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the addition of aggravating factors to charges will enable prosecutors to seek an exceptional sentence higher than the standard range.

“​​The defendants came to Washington for the explicit reason of taking this baby, by force,” prosecutors argued in documents. “This crime was planned and premeditated weeks in advance.”

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the mother of the kidnapped baby told Federal Way police in an interview that Ardila-Urrego, her cousin, said to the mother she planned to visit Washington and deliver kids clothes to the apartment with her husband in the days prior to the incident. Additionally, Ardila-Urrego said to the mother that she planned to buy a bed from Amazon for the mother’s other child, a 2-year-old.

According to the affidavit, Ardila-Urrego informed the mother on Feb. 19 of the bed’s scheduled arrival for Feb. 20.

On Feb. 20, the mother said to police she heard a hard knock on the front entrance of the apartment after waking up and saw a man with an Amazon box and a clipboard outside.

As she started to sign the clipboard, the man allegedly forced his way into the apartment, punching her in the face, back of the head, and body multiple times, and shoving her facedown to the floor, she told police. He tied her hands and feet with zip-ties and a woman in a dress and face mask held her down as the man headed into the bedroom to retrieve the baby.

According to the affidavit, the man placed the baby in the Amazon box, and moved the mother to the second bedroom with her 2-year-old, stealing two cellphones and a tablet prior to leaving with the baby.

According to an affidavit, the mother escaped the binds tying her feet and contacted maintenance workers outside. A witness called police at 9:53 a.m. reporting a woman with her hands tied, accompanied by a child.

FBI agents and task force members assisted Federal Way police with the investigation, conducting searches for the mother’s stolen cellphone and Lai’s vehicle.

FBI agents relayed information to the Washington State Patrol after tracking the location of the stolen cellphone to the area of Highway 18 and Military Road South. State Patrol also identified a capture of Lai’s vehicle in Tukwila from Feb. 19, found through a check of automated license plate readers, that matched the suspect vehicle in security footage from the apartment complex.

A Washington State Patrol trooper located Lai’s vehicle at 1:05 p.m. Feb. 20, driving east on Interstate 90 in Grant County, west of Moses Lake. He conducted a traffic stop.

The trooper found the baby in the vehicle alongside Ardila-Urrego and Lai. He arrested them both.

According to the affidavit, in the Federal Way Police Department’s interview with the mother’s father, Ardila-Urrego previously disclosed to him that she planned to serve as a surrogate mother in exchange for $70,000. He believed she never followed through with her plan.

According to McNerthney’s email, the King County Superior Court set bail for both defendants at $750,000, lower than the requested $2 million prosecutors asked for.

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