Teens Questioned In Death Of Spokane Woman Pair With Criminal Records Had Escaped During Field Trip To Seahawks Game
Two teenage fugitives with a history of breaking into homes are being questioned in the robbery-slaying of an elderly Spokane woman.
One of them, 17-year-old Vy Thang of Aberdeen, Wash., was serving time in a state juvenile institution for beating and robbing a 69-year-old woman in his hometown.
Police arrested Thang and Simeon Terry, 17, early Wednesday in Spokane.
The two have been on the run since Aug. 2, when they walked away from a Seattle Seahawks exhibition game attended by fellow “honor” inmates from Maple Lane, a juvenile detention center near Centralia, Wash.
“Mr. Thang is one of the most violent persons I’ve ever run into,” Aberdeen police Capt. John Delia said Wednesday. “We were outraged he was allowed to go to a football game and such a public place.”
After the escape, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services immediately canceled all off-site activities - other than work crews - for Maple Lane and five other state-run detention centers, a spokeswoman said.
Spokane police said Thang and Terry are “persons of interest” in the beating death of 85-year-old Mildred O. Klaus.
The victim’s son found Klaus’ body about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday inside her north Spokane home at 326 W. Mansfield.
An autopsy on Wednesday revealed she had died from “blunt trauma.” Police would not elaborate on her injuries.
Detectives said it appears Klaus died at the hands of intruders who ransacked her home over the Labor Day weekend.
Thang and Terry, who is from Spokane, have not been charged with the murder.
Both boys, however, have histories of breaking into homes and burglarizing them, according to court records, and Terry is known to carry a gun.
In February 1996, Thang pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and residential burglary for breaking into a pair of homes and terrorizing the 69-year-old woman.
Aberdeen police said Thang and another boy forced their way into Shirley Morgan’s home on Jan. 13, 1996, and bound her with a telephone cord. Then they severely beat and robbed her at gunpoint.
The gun had been stolen from a home they burglarized minutes earlier.
“They tied her up, stomped her and basically left her for dead,” Delia said. “It was one of the most violent crimes that I’ve ever seen.”
Thang, showing no remorse, was sentenced to 310 weeks in a state juvenile institution. He was sent to Maple Lane, where he was expected to stay until he turned 21.
Thang’s prior juvenile record in Grays Harbor County includes four days in detention in 1995 for first-degree criminal trespassing, and four days in detention in 1994 for residential burglary.
Terry wound up at Maple Lane after twice being arrested in Spokane County for using a gun in commission of a crime, according to court records.
In April 1996, he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree armed burglary after prosecutors agreed to drop one count of being a minor in possession of a firearm.
A month earlier, Terry was convicted of car theft. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and hit-and-run, records show. Details about his sentences were not available.
The Spokane murder investigation was sparked Tuesday when a man found Klaus’ purse on the roof of a business in the 200 block of West Indiana, several blocks east of the victim’s home.
Whether Thang and Terry face murder charges or not, Aberdeen police say the young criminals shouldn’t have had such an easy opportunity to escape.
“There were 50,000 people in that stadium all leaving at once,” Delia said. “(Thang and Terry) had a perfect out. That should have never happened.”
Thang, Terry and three other boys earned the outing through points awarded in Maple Lane’s honor system, said Kathy Spears, spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services. They were supervised at the game by two unarmed Maple Lane employees.
“Does the public and the taxpayers want us to rehabilitate these children or institutionalize them?” Spears said Wednesday. “It has worked in the past.”