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EXCLUSIVE: Dad of Yuma murder victim hopes for death penalty for two suspects

CBS 13's April Hettinger speaks with the father about the suspects not guilty plea

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - A father is speaking out about his son's murder on the same day the prime suspects in his killing pleaded not guilty.

Derek Runnion's remains were discovered on April 1. Runnion went missing in March.

Suspects Jonissa Jones and Erick Chavez face first-degree murder charges. On Monday they pleaded not guilty.

After the hearing, Derek's father, Michael Runnion, talked to CBS 13's April Hettinger about the case. It's the first time he's spoken to the media since Jones and Chavez's arrest. He says he hopes the receive the most severe punishment possible.

"I hope and pray that if they are found guilty that they are held responsible to the fullest extent of the law in a first-degree murder case, and I don't know if Arizona will allow the death penalty," Runnion explained. "I'm not morbid, but I believe that, that should be the outcome."

Suspects Jonissa Jones and Erick Chavez could face the death penalty if convicted. Capital punishment remains legal in the State of Arizona.

Runnion still has many questions about his son's death, including the relationship between Derek and the suspects.

"We're not sure if that's the actual person he met that day at Walmart," Runnion stated. "That hasn't been really addressed yet. I'm speculating that, but I can't be 100% sure, so they haven't disclosed that to us as of yet."

Michael says he had an eerie feeling sitting in the same courtroom Monday with the two people accused of taking his son's life. He also shared the secret circumstances under which his family honored Derek's short life. The sensitive nature of the case prevented family and friends from doing anything public.

"We had a little celebration at the lake. We painted some rocks, wrote a memory of Derek and we actually threw the rocks into the lake," Runnion explained.

Michael says Derek leaves behind many happy memories.

"His zest for life, his spirit," Runnion said. "The biggest thing is just his spirit, but it's hard to get used to, you know, just not having him around."

Still, he is pleased with the way police have handled the case. He says it's now up to justice to run its course.

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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.


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