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Motive in South Hill slayings is proving elusive

Tue., Nov. 22, 2005, midnight

Something set off 17-year-old Travis Ault, but police say the suspect refuses to tell investigators what happened inside a South Hill home where an 18-year-old friend was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat and the friend’s mother was fatally shot with a deer rifle.

Spokane Police Chief Roger Bragdon called the rampage a horrific double homicide and one of the more savage attacks he’s seen in some time.

“It’s very troubling because there is no explanation at the moment,” he said. “And again, when you look at the senseless brutality, the savageness of this particular attack, the lack of apparent motive is very disconcerting.”

Ault faces two counts of first-degree murder – and soon will be charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder – in connection with the Friday night slayings of 18-year-old Wesley Myers and his 52-year-old mother, Doreen Britt.

Bragdon released more details Monday about what happened just before 8:30 p.m. inside the house at 5203 S. Stone Lane. Ault had been friends with Myers for five years, Bragdon said.

Britt’s husband, Gary Frost, who survived the attack with a broken jaw and arm, told police that the teenage boys were upstairs in Myers’ room, playing music when something went wrong.

Bragdon said Ault grabbed a baseball bat and started swinging, beating Myers to death. “He then used a knife on (Myers) to ensure that the young Myers boy was dead,” Bragdon said.

Ault then took Myers’ .30-30-caliber rifle and went downstairs where he confronted Britt and Frost, Bragdon said.

Ault “immediately shot the mother while she was still sitting in her chair where she had been watching the Gonzaga game,” Bragdon said. “There was a struggle between (Frost) and the suspect over the rifle. The father was actually able to get the rifle away from the suspect.

“But in doing so, the suspect hit him in the face with the baseball bat, breaking his jaw.”

Frost, who also suffered another blow that broke an arm, ran from the house with the attacker chasing him, Bragdon said. “The suspect went back into the house, retrieved the weapon and left the area.”

The bullet that killed Britt passed through her, exited the house and hit the house next door.

“We like to think that people are killed for some reason, even if it is an illegal reason. And we can’t at the moment discover the reason why two people are dead and one person is seriously injured,” Bragdon said.

Detectives found evidence that the boys had been drinking brandy and smoking marijuana. They also may have smoked sherm, which is a slang term for a marijuana cigarette laced with PCP.

“But that to my experience didn’t explain what happened that night,” Bragdon said. “It’s been around for years. We’ve encountered it all the time, but we have not encountered violence like this because somebody was smoking marijuana that was laced with sherm.”

After the attack, Ault went home and told his mother, Laurie Crow, and her husband, Jerry Crow, that he had just killed two people, Bragdon said.

The Crows persuaded Ault to surrender, but he escaped from their car as the couple was driving him to the police station.

While Spokane police initiated an extensive manhunt, a woman called police Sunday from a convenience store to say that she was driving Ault to an apartment complex at Richard Allen Court. Police arrested Ault when they arrived, ending the 22-hour search.

“He was taken into custody and to my knowledge hasn’t talked to us since,” Bragdon said.


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