September 21, 2010 in City

Killer found dead in Spokane County Jail cell

Devlin was sentenced last week for murdering accuser
By The Spokesman-Review

A man sentenced to life in prison last week for murdering one of his accusers in a 2007 assault case was found dead in the Spokane County Jail early Monday.

Christopher H. Devlin, 57, didn’t get out of bed when served breakfast about 6:30 a.m., but a jailer thought he saw his leg move, assumed he was refusing to eat, and removed the meal, said sheriff’s Lt. Aaron Anderton.

Another employee found Devlin dead about 8:30 a.m., Anderton said.

Devlin was found face down in his bed. There were no obvious signs of violence.

Anderton said Devlin’s death appears to have been self-inflicted or from natural causes but said investigators are awaiting an autopsy. An estimated time of death will help investigators determine if procedures were followed when Devlin didn’t retrieve his breakfast at 6:30 a.m., Anderton said.

The situation is similar to the Nov. 11 death of Fredrick James Juhnke, who had died from a burst artery but lay in his cell for eight hours before jail deputies found him.

Two deputies were disciplined in that case: one was fired and one resigned, including a deputy who falsified jail logs to try to hide the fact that they didn’t make half-hourly checks on inmates as required.

Devlin had no criminal record before Aug. 18, when a Stevens County jury convicted him of the May 2008 slaying of 52-year-old Daniel Heily, who was to testify against Devlin in an assault case.

Devlin’s lawyer, Mark Vovos, said he was to meet with his client on Monday to discuss an upcoming restitution hearing.

“This is just shocking,” Vovos said. “I don’t know what to say. I feel terribly for his family.”

Devlin had been alone in his cell since Friday, two days after he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated murder, Anderton said.

Heily’s family spoke at the hearing, describing Heily as a loving man and calling Devlin a “psychopath,” “thug,” “despicable individual” and “tyrannical plague.”

Vovos said Monday that Devlin “was a good soul.”

Anderton said Devlin had no documented behavior problems. He was housed with 45 other inmates in a medium-security unit designed for “some of our better inmates” who are “a little older, a little calmer,” Anderton said.

The inmates were kept alone in their cells on the weekend but allowed out anywhere between three to six hours a day during the week, Anderton said. Anderton said medication is typically distributed to inmates on a daily basis but that some are “quite skilled” at hiding it.

“It’s possible someone could have given him prescription medications that weren’t his,” Anderton said. “The autopsy will tell.”

Vovos said he’d complained about Devlin’s medical treatment at the Spokane County Jail.

“We’ve raised all sorts of problem with his pain and what they weren’t doing at the jail,” Vovos said. “He was very happy in Stevens County. Spokane is a hard time.”

Vovos had intended to appeal Devlin’s conviction.

Heily was shot to death, and though Devlin was convicted of the murder, the jury ruled he was not armed with a firearm.

The only sentences for aggravated murder in Washington are life in prison or the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque ruled out the death penalty in February because prosecutors withheld from defense lawyers information about where the murder was committed.

Devlin’s trial sparked a squabble between Stevens and Spokane counties about the crime scene location and which county should pay for the trial. The case ended up being handled by Spokane County prosecutors but decided by a Stevens County jury in Colville.

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