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Area Murder Rate Decreased In ‘94 `Not Enough To Make Us Jump For Joy, But At Least They Came Down’

There were fewer murders in Spokane County last year than in 1993, and detectives solved all but two.

Spokane police solved six of the seven homicides in the city last year. They have not yet closed the case of Linda A. Guillen, 21, a prostitute who was found stabbed to death and dumped near Playfair Race Track last December.

Two young suspects, however, were arrested last month in Pend Oreille County. They are accused of killing an Elk-area man who came home and discovered them in his back yard.

Sheriff’s deputies solved nine of 10 killings they investigated. Four of those occurred when Dean Mellberg opened fire at the Fairchild Air Force Base hospital last summer.

Deputies also count Mellberg’s death as one of their solved cases. He was shot by a military police officer.

Sheriff’s deputies believe homicide is the cause in the death of Tom Terhune, 32, whose body was found wedged between train tracks east of Airway Heights on March 3.

The body of his friend, Mike McCollough, 32, was found a day later along the tracks about 90 miles away in Lincoln County, where authorities also are calling that death murder.

In 1993, there were 20 homicides throughout Spokane County. They dropped to 17 last year.

“Not enough to make us jump for joy,” said Dick Cottam, Spokane police spokesman. “But at least they came down.”

Spokane’s murder rate is about 4.5 per 100,000 people - about 1.5 less than the state average, according to a study released last week by the private Population Reference Bureau.

Combining reports by the National Center for Health Statistics and the FBI, the research group calculated murder rates for each state last year.

Washington had 5.9 murders per 100,000 people. That number is significantly lower than the national average of 10 murders per 100,000 people.

The District of Columbia had the worst showing, with 66.5 murders per 100,000 people. Iowa was at the other end of the list, with 1.9 per 100,000, according to the report.

Police Chief Terry Mangan said residents should also consider the three other categories of violent crime - rape, robbery and assault - when determining what a decrease in homicides means.

In Spokane, rapes dropped to 95 in 1994, down from 100 in 1993. Assaults declined by seven from 1,004 the prior year. Robbery jumped from 318 in 1993 to 434 last year.

The Sheriff’s Department saw a similar trend. Rapes went down by 13 to 48 while assaults increased to 219, up from 200 in 1993. Robberies increased from 83 to 93.

“Spokane kind of always lags behind,” Mangan said. “But we are changing from a big small town to a small metro area, and with that comes an increase in violent crime. We need to look at the total picture here.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Clyde Ries attributed the county’s violent crime increases to growth.

“We’ve got a different element out there,” he said. “More people are moving in and the county’s growing. Yet the city has a lot more officers than we do.”

xxxx Homicides down In 1993, there were 20 homicides throughout Spokane County. They dropped to 17 last year.

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