Accused triple murder suspect enters plea at Fresno County court arraignment

A Squaw Valley man detectives are calling a serial killer pleaded not guilty in Fresno County court Thursday to three counts of murder.

Wearing a yellow jumpsuit reserved for high-risk inmates, Buford King quietly issued his plea before Judge Heather Mardel Jones. King will return to her courtroom Jan. 23 for a pre-preliminary hearing.

King, 35, is accused of killing Donnie Lee, 62, Aleksey Shelest, 35, and Alberto Contreras, 51.

Lee’s and Shelest’s bodies were found in March, buried nine feet deep on King’s Squaw Valley Road property. Contreras’ body was unearthed in the 16000 block of Avenue 264 in Visalia.

Detectives have long believed King, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, was a key suspect in the disappearances of the three men. Lee, who lived on King’s property in a trailer, disappeared on Nov. 1, 2016. Shelest was last heard from on May 18, 2016. Contreras was last seen in January 2011.

So far, King has not been charged with any additional murders, but detectives are continuing their investigation.

King lived in Visalia from 2009 through 2011. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department announced King’s arrest during a news conference July 31. Those attending included relatives of King’s alleged victims.

Jessica Brumley, Lee’s daughter, was relieved to hear a suspect had been arrested in her father’s case.

“It has been a long road and I am glad it’s over,” she said in July. Brumley said she always had a sinking feeling the King was somehow responsible for her father’s death.

Detectives found King in the Fresno County Jail, where he had been since February. He was arrested for allegedly shooting another man and for possessing explosives at his home on Squaw Valley Road.

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A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.