March 1, 2008 in City

Suspect jailed in fatal stabbings

Police say bloody fingerprint links 20-year-old to killings
By and The Spokesman-Review
 

Sarah A. Clark didn’t have a boyfriend. Friends said the Mead High School senior liked Justin M. Crenshaw, who’d just moved to Spokane from Las Vegas, but she didn’t think they had a future.

“She liked him, but she was always, like, sketchy about him,” said classmate Taylor Nay, 17, Clark’s friend and co-worker at an Albertsons grocery store. “She knew he was the kind of guy things wouldn’t work out with.”

Crenshaw, 20, now sits in the Spokane County Jail, accused in the slayings of Clark, 18, and Tanner E. Pehl, 20. Clark and Pehl were found stabbed to death in a home at 512 E. Elm St. after firefighters responded to a fire there.

Crenshaw appeared in court Friday on two counts of first-degree premeditated murder. He’s being held on $1 million bail.

A bloody fingerprint placed Crenshaw at the crime scene, investigators said Friday.

Police found two swords – one similar to a scimitar and the other similar to a samurai’s – near the bodies. Detectives, however, are still looking for the murder weapon, said Sgt. Dave Reagan, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

Police believe Crenshaw killed Pehl and Clark, then drove Clark’s car to a friend’s apartment to clean up and change clothes. Police believe he then parked the car five blocks from his aunt’s home, where police found it, a court document states.

Nay and more than 70 teens spent a somber Friday evening in Holmberg Park, holding a candlelight vigil for the girl that friends described as spunky, independent, fiercely loyal to her friends and a whiz on the piano.

“She’d give us rides wherever we needed to go, and then she’d come and hang out with us,” said Justin Robideaux, a sophomore at Mead. Clark, Robideaux and their circle of friends hoped to move to Portland after high school and share an apartment. Clark dreamed of being a hair stylist, Robideaux said.

School officials said Friday was a tough day for students. Not only did they learn of Clark’s death, they also were grieving for the loss of Pehl, a former Mead student.

Pehl moved back to Spokane in January after living in Federal Way, Wash. A friend from high school, 19-year-old Mandy Hansen, said he called her before the move. She told him she wished they saw each other more.

“He said, ‘Oh, we can get together forever because I’m coming home,’ ” Hansen said.

She and Pehl spent a lot of time together in high school, eating Thai food and singing songs such as “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd or “Blackbird” by the Beatles, Hansen said.

“Some of my best memories from high school are with Tanner,” she said.

Clark was involved in track, cross-country and yearbook at Mead. She was in line to be captain of the cross-country team this year, but she pulled out because she had too much going on, said Dori Robertson, Mead’s girls track coach.

“She came to me and said she wanted to be a captain but she couldn’t do it well, and she didn’t want to do it if she couldn’t do it well,” Robertson said.

Clark met Crenshaw through his sister, Reagan said.

Pehl and Crenshaw worked at Brooklyn’s Woodfire Grill on state Highway 2. Crenshaw arrived in Spokane less than three weeks ago from Las Vegas to meet his sister for the first time. Crenshaw was raised by his birth parents. His sister, Ashley N. Vanvlymen, was given up for adoption at birth.

Vanvlymen and Clark were friends, authorities said. Vanvlymen told authorities Crenshaw had become attracted to Clark, damaging his relationship with his sister, Reagan said.

According to a court document, Clark, Pehl and Crenshaw went to the home on Elm Street on Wednesday night after work to have drinks. Pehl lived at the home with his mother, Laurie Pehl, and brother, 24-year-old Matt Pehl. But they weren’t home Wednesday.

Crenshaw told authorities the three of them drank beer and liquor. Crenshaw said he got “too drunk and got sick,” and had Clark and Pehl drive him to a friend’s apartment to stay the night, according to the court document. He said the friend was not there, so he stayed there alone and expected Clark to pick him up in the morning, but she didn’t show up.

When investigators went to the friend’s apartment late Thursday, they found a “substantial amount of blood,” and the friend said he was missing some clothes, the court document states.

Sheriff’s detectives interviewed Crenshaw on Thursday and arrested him early Friday, Reagan said.

Authorities said Crenshaw stabbed someone in the neck in Las Vegas before he was 18 and served 18 months in jail, according to a court document.

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or meghannc@spokesman.com. Jody Lawrence-Turner can be reached at (509) 459-5593 or jodyl@spokesman.com.

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