February 27, 2009 in City

Dragging death investigation ongoing

Police believe several witnesses can provide critical information
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Whom to call

Anyone with information regarding 42-year-old Susette Werner’s death can call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

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 road.

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 hit-and-run. “We need help from the community.”

Werner’s mother, Vicky Littell, made a similar plea. “I just feel that knowing who did it would help,” she said.

Police believe at least two and possibly four people know what happened to Werner early Feb. 8.

In retracing Werner’s steps, authorities learned she left Casey’s bar on North Monroe Street 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 told police she seemed comfortable with them and walked out of the bar on her own.

But investigators don’t know what Werner was doing from the time she left the bar until she was hit, about 3:45 a.m. “We don’t think she was out walking around the neighborhood,” Hallock said.

Hallock said the people who left the bar with Werner are not in trouble, but “we need those men to come forward.”

Police believe 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 breaks their legs, Hallock said. Werner had no such injuries, he said.

Police say Werner was hit at Cedar Street and Carlisle Avenue, dragged south on Cedar, west on Northwest Boulevard and south on Ash Street to just before Maxwell Avenue – 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 soon arrived that police said was turquoise, rather than teal, which they’d said in the past.

The men in the two vehicles got out and “faced each other,” but it was not clear to the witness if they spoke. The SUV or van driver returned to his vehicle, 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.

Police found no evidence from the vehicle. In eight years of investigating automobile-vs.-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 paint from the car. Authorities are also awaiting toxicology reports.

Hallock said the longer the driver waits to come forward, the worse it could look for that person.

“The person in the station wagon (also) knows what happened,” Hallock said. “We need them to call, even if it’s anonymously.”

Gene Littell, Werner’s father, said he has forgiven the person who killed his daughter.

“Nothing that has happened now matters,” he said. “Our baby’s gone. Nothing will bring her back. I have no animosity.”

Vicky Littell said she wasn’t there yet.

“Having someone drop out from under your car and drive away,” she said, “was inexcusable.”

Contact Jody Lawrence-Turner at (509) 459-5593 or jodyl@spokesman.com.

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