Almost three weeks after 42-year-old Susette Werner was dragged to her death, investigators continue to piece together what happened in the hours before her body was discovered in the roadway.
New details released Wednesday suggest the death was accidental, but key witnesses needed to solve the case remain unidentified.
“We need people to come forward,” said Spokane police Cpl. Brad Hallock, lead investigator in the fatal hit-and-run. “We need help from the community.”
Werner’s mother, Vicky Littell, is making a similar plea so she can have closure with her daughter’s death. “I just feel that knowing who did it would help,” she said.
Police believe that two to four people know what happened to Werner on the morning of Feb. 8.
In retracing Werner’s steps, authorities now know she left Casey’s bar on North Monroe about 1:30 a.m. with two men, Hallock said. The bar has a lot of regulars, including Werner, and while no one recognized the men, witnesses said she seemed comfortable with them and walked out of the bar on her own.
From the time she left the bar, until she was hit at about 3:45 a.m., investigators have been unable to figure out what Werner was doing. “We don’t think she was out walking around the neighborhood,” Hallock said.
“We need those men to come forward,” said Hallock, adding they are not in trouble.
Police say Werner was hit at Cedar and Carlisle, dragged south on Cedar, west on Northwest Boulevard and south on Ash to just before Maxwell – about 15 blocks.
Police also think Werner was hit at a slow speed or as she was lying on the ground. Usually, if people are standing when they are hit, the impact should break their legs, Hallock said. Werner had no such injuries, he said.
Based on video surveillance from United Floor Covering, 1329 N. Ash Street, police have determined a timeline from when Werner was hit at Cedar and Carlisle to when the body was found at Ash and Maxwell.
She was hit about 3:45 a.m., Hallock said. Her body was dragged south on Cedar, west on Northwest Boulevard and south on Ash to just before Maxwell – about 15 blocks. The driver is believed to have stopped and backed up at Ash and Maxwell, which apparently dislodged the body.
Based on evidence, “the way the person was driving, it doesn’t indicate they knew they were dragging a body,” Hallock said.
A witness who lives in the area told police that around 4 a.m. she saw a boxy, dark-colored sport utility vehicle or van in the parking lot of a radiator shop at 1620 N. Ash St. The man, described as about 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, got out of the vehicle and looked around. At one point, he got out a flashlight and looked south down Ash Street, Hallock said. After about 10 minutes, the man made a phone call and a station wagon arrived soon thereafter, which police now describe as being turquoise rather than teal.
The men in the two vehicles got out and “faced each other,” but it was not clear to the witness if they spoke. The driver of the suspect vehicle then returned to his vehicle and squealed his tires out of the parking lot and headed south. The station wagon driver backed up into the witness’s driveway and headed back the way he came.
Also, there was nothing from the vehicle found at the hit and run scene. In eight years of investigating automobiles versus pedestrian collisions, Hallock said this is the first time he hasn’t found car parts at the scene.
Werner’s clothing has been submitted to the Washington State Patrol crime lab in hopes of finding a paint chip from the car. Authorities are also awaiting toxicology reports.
Hallock said for the driver, this may have been an accident. But the longer he waits, the worse it looks for him.
“The person in the station wagon (also) knows what happened,” Hallock said. “We need them to call, even if it’s anonymously.”
“Having someone drop out from under your car and drive away was inexcusable,” Werner’s mother, Vicky Littell said. The man in the station wagon, “he’s guilty, too.”
Gene Littell, Werner’s dad, has already forgiven the person who killed his daughter, he says. “Nothing that has happened now matters, our baby’s gone. Nothing will bring her back. I have no animosity.”
Vicky Littell said: “I’m not there yet.”