Her murder slapped Spokane awake, spawning citywide efforts to rescue homeless kids and preserve families.
In death, 13-year-old Rebecca Hedman became a sobering symbol - proof that life on the streets can be fatal.
A chilling poster, featuring the round-faced girl in pigtails and glasses, is circulating around Washington. It carries the message, “We can’t lose one more child.”
Hedman was a Tacoma runaway who became “Misty,” a crack-smoking prostitute in Spokane.
She should have been in seventh grade, but she was last seen alive on a downtown street corner, where she was picked up by a man and taken to his motel room. There, she was robbed and clubbed to death with a baseball bat, police say.
That was 19 months ago.
This week, the murder trial is set to begin in Spokane County Superior Court.
First, prosecutors must pass a crucial test. At a hearing Monday, they will fight to preserve accused killer John Medlock’s confessions - and incriminating evidence gleaned as a direct result of those statements.
“Without his statements, there is no case,” said Medlock’s attorney, John Muenster of Seattle.
Muenster contends his client was detained illegally and interrogated by authorities in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Deputy Prosecutor Steve Kinn, however, is confident the law is on his side. He said Spokane police detectives and Canadian authorities, who had captured Medlock on a fluke, were careful to advise the suspect of his rights before questioning him.
If the confessions stand, the case against Medlock, a 35-year-old Spokane warehouseman, is strong.
Key circumstantial evidence includes:
The baseball bat with traces of human blood on it, found in a storage locker rented to Medlock.
A bloodstained carpet pad in Room 9 of the Ranch Motel on South Lewis, where Medlock lived.
Medlock’s sudden disappearance from work a short time after the killing.
Kinn doesn’t have to prove premeditation to convict Medlock of first-degree murder. The prosecution’s theory is that Medlock killed Hedman during a robbery, constituting felony murder.
Muenster has no alibi defense. He plans to attack the state’s case, trying to create reasonable doubt.
Jury selection before Superior Court Judge James Murphy is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, with opening statements to follow Monday or Tuesday. Testimony is expected to last a couple of weeks.
Medlock’s confessions, detailed in court documents, tell a strange tale of a killer with a conscience:
He spent the morning and early afternoon of Oct. 17, 1993, at Playfair, betting on horses and drinking wine coolers. He won $33.60 on the fourth race.
About 4 p.m., he climbed in his compact car and began looking for prostitutes, something he did a few times a year.
He spotted the girl at Second and Madison. She was wearing jeans, hiking shoes and a powder-blue top. For $50, she agreed to have sex with him in his motel room. She stuffed the cash in her left sock, called herself “Misty.”
When he asked her how old she was, she insisted she was 18.
After they had had sex, Medlock complained it wasn’t good enough. He demanded a refund, but Misty refused and asked to be dropped off downtown. She sat on the edge of the bed and began to dress.
That’s when he grabbed the baseball bat he kept by the side of the bed in case of burglars. He hit her on the back of the head. She screamed, and he kept swinging - at least six more times.
Moments later, Medlock dragged her lifeless body into the bathtub and washed away the blood. He watched television and tried to sleep - he had to work in the morning.
But there was the problem of the body in the bathroom. At 11 p.m., he wrapped the victim in a wool blanket and carried the bundle to his car. He stuffed her bloodstained clothes in a plastic bag and tossed that in, too.
Medlock drove around Riverside State Park until he found a secluded spot near Downriver Golf Course. He rolled the body down a sandy bank of the Spokane River. On his way back through town, he hid the blanket and clothes in two different Dumpsters.
After taking a day off, he reported for work at a Liberty Lake warehouse. He kept reading and watching news accounts of the killing and feared police were closing in. On Nov. 28, 1993, he fled Spokane.
In truth, detectives working on the case hadn’t come close to fingering Medlock as a suspect.
“They had no clue,” said Kinn.
Convinced otherwise, Medlock resolved to go to San Francisco, where he would commit suicide by leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Halfway there, he changed his mind and his direction. He wound up in Port Moody, British Columbia, where he lived with his mother.
Worried about her son’s drinking and depression, Beverly Medlock kept probing, asking what was wrong. Finally, he told her on Dec. 28, 1993. When she said she would have to call the police, he bolted from the home, vowing to kill himself.
She called 911, and an officer, spotting Medlock’s Yugo, stopped him in Vancouver at 9:30 that night.
The officer asked what was wrong.
Medlock blurted out his second confession to murder.
When Spokane police detectives came to question him two days later, his first words were, “I did it.”
He apologized, then provided a detailed account of what had happened and directions to the storage locker.
Medlock has no criminal record. He moved to Spokane when he was 8 and graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1978.
Hedman’s life was short and tragic. She ran away from her Tacoma family several times.
She was known to Spokane social workers and others who work with homeless kids, but efforts to get her off crack and the streets failed.
Her murder spurred professionals, parents and city leaders to form Breakthrough, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving families and reaching out to street kids.
“Rebecca’s death gave us the gift of insight into what’s going on in our community,” said Leslie Stickel, executive director of Crosswalk, which helps homeless kids.
“It made us feel really, really helpless. It can happen to so many kids, because so many kids are involved in the same activities as Rebecca was.”
“For many people in Spokane, it was the last straw. They’ve seen too many children die,” said Breakthrough’s Marilee Roloff.
The killing also spurred this year’s “Becca Bill,” proposed state legislation giving parents and authorities more control over runaway children, including the power to detain them. The measure is on Gov. Mike Lowry’s desk.
Hedman’s death also was a wakeup call to the estimated 200 to 300 kids who live on the streets of Spokane.
“For some of them,” Stickel said, “it was hard reality.”