October 9, 2009 in City

Police say man’s cellmate penned anonymous notes

Letters to wife called witness-tampering
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A man charged with witness-tampering in his attempted murder case enlisted the help of a teen murder suspect with neat handwriting, court documents allege.

David E. Epley, 36, pleaded not guilty Monday in Spokane County Superior Court to one count of tampering with a witness. Authorities allege that anonymous letters received by his wife, warning of the emotional damage that marital infidelity causes families, actually were penned by one of Epley’s cellmates at Epley’s behest.

Epley spent three months in Spokane County Jail after his arrest in May on charges of kidnapping his estranged wife and her boyfriend, then trying to throw the boyfriend from the Wandermere Bridge. He’s still awaiting trial on those charges but is out of jail on $75,000 bail.

While in custody earlier, though, Epley shared a jail housing module with Matthew T. Shope, an 18-year-old accused with another man, Michael A. Quinones, 29, in the October 2008 strangulation death of Jennifer L. Siria, court papers show.

It was during those months that Epley’s wife received dozens of letters at her home addressed to her and to the couple’s children, according to a probable cause affidavit. In July, she received “a neatly written,” three-page letter to her that was signed, “A loving neighbor,” according to the affidavit.

Claiming to have read about the case in the newspaper, the letter’s author wrote of an affair that she had in 1997 “that resulted in significant long-term detrimental consequences for her family, particularly for her children,” according to the affidavit. “Maybe it would be best if you were to talk to your husband and decide what’s best,” the letter read.

Epley’s wife suspected it was a third-party contact from her husband, and a police detective recognized the handwriting as Shope’s.

Shope and Epley had grown close in jail, and Shope told police he traded his artwork to Epley for jail commissary food items.

Shope agreed to rewrite a letter Epley wrote in exchange for some items, “making spelling and grammatical corrections as he went,” according to the affidavit. Shope said he didn’t know what Epley had done with the letter.

Epley and his wife had been married about 10 years when she started seeing another man, according to court documents.

On May 12, she met the boyfriend at Cinola’s Restaurant, 14710 N. Newport Highway.

Epley allegedly appeared in the back seat of his wife’s car and pointed a pistol at her boyfriend’s head as the pair drove away, court records say. Along with first-degree kidnapping and attempted murder, Epley is charged with first-degree rape for an alleged gunpoint assault against his wife about a week before his arrest.

Shope told police that Epley had denied most of what he’s accused of “but did tell him at one point that he had gone to sleep in the trunk with a gun until they, apparently referring to (his wife) and (her boyfriend), got back in the car,” according to the affidavit.

Epley’s trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 14.


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