August 11, 1995 in Nation/World

Three Arrested In Double Homicide 15-Year-Old Faces Charges; 2 Others Seized In Idaho

From Staff Reports Staff writer
 

A 15-year-old suspected of gunning down two teenage girls in north Spokane is in jail, facing two counts of first-degree murder.

Kenneth Comeslast was arrested early Thursday in Spokane and also will be charged with two counts of first-degree assault, police said.

Police did not provide details of Comeslast’s arrest.

Two other teens linked to the murders were arrested Thursday on a North Idaho golf course.

John “Doug” Champagne, 18, and Christopher McIlveen, 17, were charged with assisting in the double homicide.

Police said Champagne and McIlveen, both of Spokane, waited in a station wagon just before 2 a.m. Wednesday while Comeslast got out of the car, walked around the corner of Haven and Central and opened fire on four girls sitting on the front porch at 2928 E. Central.

Kendra Grantham, 16, and her friend, Cindy Buffin, 17, were shot in the back of the head and killed instantly.

Amanda Denny, 13, was shot once in the side. She was treated and released from Holy Family Hospital. The fourth girl was not injured.

Comeslast faces assault charges in connection with shots fired at the two girls who were not killed.

Police said the shooting was gang-related but have not determined a motive.

Champagne was taken to the Bonner County Jail and is being held without bond. McIlveen agreed to be extradited to Spokane.

Authorities in Idaho said they were tipped Thursday that two of the suspected gunmen were in Blanchard, about 35 miles southwest of Sandpoint.

An officer spotted the teenagers about 3:15 p.m. as they were getting ready to play a round of golf at Stoneridge, a nearby resort with condominiums.

The suspects were with Champagne’s grandfather, who owns a condominium there.

“They were in an electric cart at the first tee, just getting ready to golf,” said Bonner County Undersheriff Nick Krager.

An off-duty deputy, Eric Skinner, happened to be golfing at the course. He heard on his portable radio that backup officers were headed there to make an arrest.

Skinner followed the suspects around in a golf cart until two plainclothes detectives from Spokane arrived.

The detectives hopped in another golf cart, drove onto the tee box and arrested the surprised teenagers.

“They didn’t know what the hell happened,” Krager said. “They whirled around when they saw three patrol cars come to the clubhouse, but by the time they realized what was going on, we had them.”

The arrests were made without a struggle, and Champagne’s grandfather played a couple of more holes of golf before leaving, said Dave Estes, golf pro at the resort.

Two Spokane detectives questioned the men at the Bonner County sheriff’s substation in Priest River. Champagne will have an extradition hearing before he is returned to Spokane to face charges.

Both Champagne and McIlveen have juvenile records in Spokane County. Police said they believe Comeslast also has a criminal history, but they didn’t provide details.

McIlveen was scheduled for a Juvenile Court trial this month in Spokane on a charge of first-degree burglary.

He is accused of breaking into a home in the 7800 block of North Julia on March 21. Either he or another of the defendants assaulted a woman while in the house, according to court records.

When reached by phone Thursday evening, a Spokane woman who identified herself as McIlveen’s mother wouldn’t comment on his arrest, except to say, “I’d really like to talk to him right now.”

Champagne was convicted in Juvenile Court of second-degree theft in November 1992 and sentenced to 24 hours of community service.

“I assisted in a theft of jackets from Sports Center Northwest,” Champagne wrote in court documents.

A Spokane woman who claimed her 12-year-old son was being harassed by Champagne recently obtained a protection order against Champagne. The order for protection against civil harassment was served on Aug. 3.

Tina Gertsch wrote in the petition for the order that her son and his friends couldn’t go to the park or for walks without being cornered or harassed by Champagne.

Champagne even tried to hit her son with his car, Gertsch wrote.

According to court records, Champagne was forbidden from contacting his co-defendants in the theft case - including Kevin Boot, a teenage suspect in an execution-style murder late last year.

Boot and his cousin, Jerry Boot, were arrested in the December 1994 kidnap-slaying of Felicia Reese, whose body was found near Upriver Drive and the Centennial Trail.

Spokane police Capt. Roger Bragdon said the three teens arrested Thursday are the primary suspects in this week’s double homicide, but the investigation is ongoing.

Police in Spokane also have recovered the weapon they believe was used in the murders, a semiautomatic assault rifle, Bragdon said. He wouldn’t elaborate on how it was found.

The teens are members of a “scavenger gang” - a loosely organized, unsophisticated gang, Bragdon said.

He said they sometimes had visited the house where the shootings occurred. However, Bragdon said, police still don’t know the details of the relationship between the victims and the suspects.

Throughout the day Thursday, police denied any arrests had been made in the case, even though Comeslast already was in custody.

After the two teens had been arrested in Idaho, police held a news conference in Spokane but would not reveal whether any arrests had been made.

Lt. Jerry Oien said police hadn’t learned of the Idaho arrests at the time of the news conference. He admitted police “held back” information on Comeslast’s arrest because they didn’t want to alarm the two suspected accomplices.

Bragdon said police worked cautiously, fearing more violence.

“Whenever you deal with a gang culture, you always have to be concerned with retaliation,” he said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos; Map of area where suspects were captured

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff reports Staff writers Bonnie Harris, Kevin Keating, Gita Sitaramiah and Winda Benedetti contributed to this report.

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