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Santa Rosa Marine charged with Army reservist's Southern California murder

Defendant Marine Cpl. Kevin Coset in Vista court Tuesday.

Bill Wechter/ U-T San Diego
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 12:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 7:48 a.m.

A Marine corporal from Santa Rosa is charged with first-degree murder in the San Diego-area slaying of an Army reservist.

Kevin Albert Richard Coset, 23, a former Montgomery High School student, is accused of killing Alvin Bulaoro, 24, whose body was found Jan. 3 in an SUV parked outside a Fallbrook grocery store.

Coset, who was stationed at nearby Camp Pendleton, is charged with lying in wait and using a gun and knife. The special circumstances make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

He was arrested about six weeks after Bulaoro's body was discovered Jan. 3. The Army Reserve officer was last seen Dec. 21.

San Diego County prosecutors Thursday would not reveal a motive for the slaying or say what led them to Coset. Detectives did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

However, at Coset's arraignment March 11, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Marquardt said the victim and Coset had known each other before agreeing to meet the night of Dec. 21, according to U-T San Diego.

Marquardt said the two met in a Fallbrook parking lot, then went to a nearby motel room, which Coset paid for. The newspaper quoted the prosecutor as saying Coset "savagely ended Mr. Bulaoro's life," slitting his throat and shooting him twice in the head. Bulaoro also was stabbed repeatedly in the head and torso.

A preliminary hearing is set for Monday. Coset has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail. His bail is set at $5 million, said his lawyer, Pal Anthony Lengyel-Leahu.

He said Coset did not know the victim and there is nothing connecting him to the murder. "As of right now, I'm shaking my head because I don't know why they are going in this direction," the lawyer said.

He said police named Coset a suspect based on a "credit card swipe" linked to the slaying. Also, he said authorities claim to have surveillance video of Bulaoro meeting with an assailant in the parking lot.

Published reports said the body was found zipped in a sleeping bag in the back of a Toyota 4-Runner.

Another story in U-T San Diego said Bulaoro was a Fallbrook resident and second lieutenant assigned to the Medical Services Corps.

Coset was in the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, his lawyer said. He had not seen combat during his time in service, according to the newspaper. Marine Capt. Lisa Lawrence-Arocho would not confirm his service record. A call to his parents' Bennett Valley home Thursday was not returned.

Coset's Facebook page had a profile picture of a light-haired man in camouflage standing beside a similarly dressed woman. It contained a picture of an anarchy symbol ringed with the slogan, "There's no government like no government." His "likes" include the "We Stand with Christopher Dorner" Facebook page.

Dorner was the fugitive Los Angeles police officer who killed four people after he was fired. He committed suicide in a standoff with police outside a Big Bear Lake cabin last month.

Coset's lawyer downplayed the material, saying Coset was more opposed to mistreatment of Dorner by his supervisors than anything else. And he said Coset was not an anti-government extremist.

"He was a United States Marine," Lengyel-Leahu said. "There is no more pro-government group than that."

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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