Four of six suspects who held the occupants of homes in Orem and Provo hostage last year while ransacking the homes for drugs and other items are now serving time at the Utah State Prison.
In plea bargains with Utah County prosecutors, three of the suspects pleaded guilty last week in 4th District Court to four first-degree felonies. A fourth pleaded guilty in January to four first-degree felonies. Two others have agreed to plea bargains but have not yet been arraigned.Investigators say the six broke into a Provo home during the early morning hours of April 13, 1994, looking for a drug dealer named "Francisco." When they didn't find him they bound the home's occupants and stole illegal drugs, three guns and stereo equipment. The suspects then drove to Orem and bound a woman occupant with duct tape and robbed her of illegal drugs, jewelry and money.
Ronnie Ray Wakefield, 31, Salt Lake City, the man investigators called the leader of the group, pleaded guilty last week to four counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated robbery. He was originally charged with nine first-degree felonies. He was sentenced to five terms of five years to life in prison with an extra three years for using a firearm.
His wife, Lori Wakefield, 31, and Ricardo Serna, 18, also pleaded guilty to the same five charges, but both only received an extra one-year sentence for using a firearm. Joseph R. Meraz, 18, Ogden, pleaded guilty to four first-degree felonies in January and is serving a prison term of five years to life.
Kevin Butterfield, 19, Salt Lake City, and Earnest Waldeck, 36, Salt Lake City, are waiting to enter pleas on reduced charges. The cases of both were on hold because both had planned to testify against the four other suspects.