Jamie Lynn Drake was murdered last year before she got to open most of her high school graduation gifts.
On Friday, her mother raced down Interstate 90 when she got the call telling her that a jury had decided the fate of her daughter’s accused killer, Kevin Wayne Newland.
Susan Nichols said she ran a red light before breathlessly arriving at the Spokane County Courthouse, where the courtroom was half-filled with Jamie’s friends. They whispered and talked with wide eyes as they waited for the six Spokane County corrections deputies to bring in Newland.
The 21-year-old gave the group a quick glance, but nothing else. He quickly reverted to his stoic, eyes-forward posture as he waited for the jury to enter.
As Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza read the guilty verdict on first-degree felony murder, Newland showed the same blank face he displayed during most of the three-week trial that will cost him a good portion of his adult life.
Nichols also showed no emotion as the verdict was read. She said she’d already come to peace with Jamie’s passing.
“On Aug. 23, I had a nice dream of Jamie,” the mother said with eyes red from tears. “She was like 19. She was right there. And she came and gave me a hug and told me that she loved me and that she had to go now.
“And she went up an oak staircase to heaven, I guess,” Nichols said. “I’ve had other dreams. I have closure because I know she’s in the Lord’s hands.”
Newland will soon be in the hands of the state Department of Corrections. Cozza scheduled Newland’s sentencing for Oct 19. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison.
The jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on the charge of pre-meditated murder. That conviction could have kept Newland in prison for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole.
Instead, they found Newland guilty of count two, a statute called felony murder. That essentially means the jury found him guilty of murder while he was committing another felony, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll said.
The jury also found Newland guilty of possession of stolen property, eight counts of forgery and two counts of second-degree theft.
“This has been a very difficult 14 1/2 months for our family,” Jamie Drake’s uncle, Mike Ormsby, said after the verdict. “We all loved Jamie very much. And not a day goes by that all of us don’t miss her very much.”
Ormsby didn’t want to talk about the other murder count on which the jury had deadlocked.
“Hopefully no family ever has to go through something like this,” he said. “We’ll never have it behind us, but we have to work at moving on and that’s what we are going to do.”
Drake didn’t show up June 23, 2006, to her job at a local Subway, sparking a statewide search. It ended six days later when Newland, who was arrested in possession of her prized Ford Mustang, led sheriff’s deputies to his mother’s cabin in Stevens County.
He showed them where he stuffed Drake’s body into the crawl space under the rural cabin.
Newland then confessed to killing Drake in her north Spokane apartment before stashing her body.
His defense attorneys started the trial on Aug. 22 by saying that Newland was too drunk that night to have formed the intent to kill. Assistant Public Defender Brooke Hagara said that once Newland remembered what he had done, he formulated a plan to visit friends and loved ones before committing suicide.
But none of that evidence came out at trial. And Assistant Public Defender Al Rossi only mentioned the suicide plan in passing during his closing statements Thursday.
The jury watched videos of Newland using Drake’s stolen credit card to buy items including fast-food, T-shirts and cologne from Anchor Blue at NorthTown Mall.
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz pointed out that the Anchor Blue purchases came the day after he killed Drake. During that transaction, the store clerk asked Newland whether Jamie Drake was actually his name.
“He joked about a woman he had just killed within 48 hours,” Steinmetz told the jury Thursday. “He said his parents gave him the name of a girl.”
But that girl’s name won’t soon be forgotten, Ormsby said.
“Our family not only prays for Jamie, but we also pray for Kevin Newland. Being vindictive doesn’t bring Jamie back,” he said.
“We as a family will now work hard on bringing closure and making this as positive as we can for ourselves and for Jamie’s many friends.”