April 22, 2010 in City

Burglar found guilty of Spokane Valley murder

Third-strike conviction requires life in prison
By The Spokesman-Review
 

An eight-woman, four-man jury took only about three hours Wednesday, including the time to eat lunch, to find a career burglar guilty of murder, ensuring he will never again walk free.

David K. Brewczynski, 44, didn’t react except to shake his head at the jury that finally ended his criminal career. The conviction of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and theft of a firearm became his third strike.

“It was difficult,” said Christy Dotson, the niece of 80-year-old murder victim Kenneth Cross. “I feel like justice was served. The truth came out. I feel encouraged by that.”

Cross was found bludgeoned in his Boone Avenue home in Spokane Valley on Sept. 20, 2008. The autopsy showed he had been struck with a blunt object 24 times in the head, about the same number of times in the torso and shot three times in the head.

Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin said Brewczynski “beat down, killed and shot Kenneth Cross. It is beyond question,” Garvin said. Cross was “stuffed into the closet and shot three times.”

But Assistant Public Defender Derek Reid tried in vain to make the case that Spokane County sheriff’s detectives, who are contracted to work as police in Spokane Valley, simply followed the facts that fit their theory and failed to test other evidence that may have supported charging other suspects.

Among others, Reid talked about the tensions between Cross and his stepson, Doug Livingstone, who had injuries to his arms and his face, detectives noted.

“If Mr. Cross had been in some sort of physical fight, the truth would be under his fingernails,” Reid said, referring to evidence that was never tested. “Am I here accusing Mr. Livingstone of killing Mr. Cross? No. I’m saying the government didn’t rule him out.”

Garvin said that detectives found identification and other items belonging to Cross in a storage unit that was accessed only by Brewczynski and another man. Forensic experts found gloves and boots with Brewczynski’s DNA inside and Cross’ blood on the outside.

But Reid pointed out that DNA from a second person was located in Brewczynski’s shoes and that evidence wasn’t tested to find out who else may have been wearing them.

Reid also questioned the role of Teresa M. Nelson, who was Cross’ housekeeper. Cross had been suspicious of her after she had earlier stolen a ring from Cross’ 82-year-old girlfriend.

Reid said a witness testified to seeing a car matching Nelson’s at Cross’ home on the day of the killing. When pressed by detectives, she told them that Brewczynski killed Cross.

“A year from now when you are at that barbecue, are you going to ask ‘Why would she point him out?’ It’s the government’s job to determine her involvement,” Reid said.

But a year from now, Brewczynski will continue to be in prison. Because the conviction Wednesday was his third strike, Superior Court Judge Annette Plese has no choice but to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detective Mike Ricketts said Brewczynski has been known to local law enforcement for years. In one burglary, for which he was convicted in 2005, Brewczynski broke into the home of an elderly man and stole his gun. “When the victim heard him, (Brewczynski) held the gun to the victim’s head,” Ricketts said.

In 1997, detectives caught up with Brewczynski – by that point a suspect in more than three dozen burglaries – by having 22 community policing volunteers with cell phones canvass the West Valley area.

Five minutes after heading out, a volunteer spotted Brewczynski riding his bicycle.

Brewczynski had just broken into a man’s home and stole his gun and money. He eventually pleaded guilty and prosecutors agreed to not pursue investigations into numerous other burglaries in which he was a suspect, according to court documents and police interviews. He was sentenced to seven years.

Brewczynski would typically knock on the front door and if no one answered he’d kick it in and take what he could carry, Sgt. Steve Barbieri said in a previous interview.

“He was one of our more prolific burglars,” Barbieri said.

Still, Reid put up a spirited defense in the murder case.

“I’m disappointed for Dave,” Reid said. “I’m disappointed.”


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