Everywhere she goes, Heather Tipke looks for him. The man with glasses and short, “military-style hair,” as the few people who saw her brother’s killer have described him.
It’s been nearly five months since William O. “Billy” Floyd, 22, was stabbed to death in a central Spokane parking lot. His assailant hasn’t been found, but his family remains hopeful.
“We’re never going to give up,” said Tipke, 25. “As long as my heart keeps beating, I’ll keep looking.”
Floyd died Aug. 15 in the parking lot of the Spokane Dance Company at 902 W. Indiana Ave. He’d been stabbed in the heart.
He and a friend were walking to an apartment to get something to eat after a night of playing video games and drinking alcohol when they encountered a man at Shannon Avenue and Lincoln Street.
He’d been walking east from Monroe and handed them a cigarette when they asked, police said.
But the 2 a.m. encounter quickly turned contentious, and Floyd soon stumbled to the ground with a knife wound to the heart.
He died shortly after medics found him almost unconscious and barely breathing.
The assailant ran northeast toward Shannon Avenue and has never been identified.
Floyd’s relatives are convinced he’s still in Spokane. They say someone has been ripping down police sketches of the man posted throughout the city.
They wonder: Could it be the killer? Or someone covering for him?
Police haven’t ruled it out. “I’m convinced someone knows who it is and they’re protecting him,” said Spokane police Detective Terry Ferguson.
Tips poured in after a sketch was released of the killer days after Floyd’s death. Some led police to people Ferguson said have been ruled out as suspects because of alibis or other evidence.
One piece of evidence – Ferguson declined to say what – has been sent to the state crime lab for tests police hope will show the killer’s DNA.
Floyd’s friend Timothy J. Lubben, 20, is the only person who saw the killer up close that night.
He cooperated with police and passed lie detector tests. He didn’t see the actual stabbing, Ferguson said. Floyd’s family said Lubben had gone up the street after the man pulled the knife but turned around when he realized the man wasn’t going to leave them alone.
He returned to hear Floyd say he’d been stabbed.
Early investigation led detectives to a woman who’d argued with Lubben and Floyd over the phone that night and challenged the two to fight, court documents show. But as far as police can tell, the woman had nothing to do with Floyd’s death.
Lubben said she’d called him the next morning to ask where they’d been, and he’d told her Floyd had been killed.
Could she have sent the man who stabbed Floyd? It’s unlikely, Ferguson said: “Why would they send one guy? That’s not the way that world works.”
Floyd’s family said the man pestered Floyd and Lubben after giving them a cigarette and grew angry when they told him to leave them alone.
Ferguson said she doesn’t know what sparked the man to pull the knife but said the encounter turned ugly “very quickly.”
“He has a side to tell that I am very open to and needing to know,” Ferguson said. “I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning and know that this is there.”
Police urge anyone who knows someone resembling the police sketch to think back to Aug. 15. The killer had been drinking that night – possibly at a Monroe Street bar – and may have had a wound on his face that lasted just a couple of days.
The killer smokes and likely lives or lived in the area where the stabbing occurred, because he was on foot. He may have suddenly left town or talked of doing so. His daily habits might have changed; his demeanor may have become more withdrawn because of stress and guilt.
“The ripple effect is just never-ending in this situation,” Ferguson said. “He’s more concerned about himself and not whether or not Billy Floyd’s family will ever find out what actually happened.”
Floyd’s family is offering a 1966 Mustang as a reward for tips that help find his killer. It belongs to his mother; Floyd always joked that she should give it to him, said his brother-in-law, Steven Tipke.
Floyd’s family remembers him as a guy with a big heart who always stood up for the underdog. More than 200 people attended his funeral. Floyd’s mother wasn’t one of them – she was too distraught after seeing her son’s body, the Tipkes said.
Floyd had recently earned his GED and planned to enroll at Spokane Falls Community College to become an auto mechanic. He loved family and doted on his two nieces, 6-year-old Kiahna and 3-year-old Taelah, never missing a school recital or a chance to play with them.
Heather and Steven Tipke named their third daughter, born three weeks after Floyd died, Billie.
Floyd had called the couple the night he died. He wanted to make sure they called him when his sister went into labor: He didn’t want to miss the birth of his third niece, Heather Tipke said. “He always said he didn’t need kids because I had them for him,” she said.
His death devastated the girls, who still ask about their Uncle Billy.
“Billy’s always in our hearts,” Kiahna Tipke said. “I wish the bad guy was taken to jail, that he would just get arrested.”
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