A Spokane diving instructor romantically linked to a woman who was found shot to death on New Year’s Day has been arrested as a suspect in her murder.
Daniel R. Arteaga, 40, was arrested at the Public Safety Building Tuesday after voluntarily reporting there for an interview. He is expected to appear in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon via video from the jail, where he is booked on a first-degree murder charge.
Detectives searched his home at 19329 E. Valleyway Ave. in east Spokane Valley Tuesday “acquiring all the evidence that we possibly can,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Arteaga is accused of killing Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34, who was found dead of a gunshot wound to her head Jan. 1.
Schmidt, who has a 13-year-old daughter, was killed about two and a half weeks after she and Arteaga were notified of two pending civil lawsuits regarding scuba diving accidents: one that left a man dead and another that allegedly left a woman with brain damage.
Arteaga and Schmidt worked part time for the Scuba Center of Spokane.
Schmidt was expected to be a key witness in the lawsuits.
Arteaga’s arrest came less than two weeks after he sued Schmidt’s mother and her estate for property damages, alleging her family was withholding diving gear and other property from him.
Schmidt’s mother, Toni Schmidt, issued a statement Tuesday commending the arrest.
“It has been a very difficult eight months for the family and friends of Kim. Not a day goes by when I was not asked, ‘When is there going to be an arrest?’ That day has come, and we must have trust in the justice system to now bring justice for Kim. We thank the sheriff’s detectives for all their hard work and their desire to solve this case.”
Schmidt, a Spokane native and graduate of Shadle Park High School, worked at Pitney Bowes with Tracy Ader, who was killed with her two sons in February by 22-year-old Dustin Gilman, who killed himself.
Arteaga told police he last saw Schmidt about 4 a.m. on New Year’s Day when she was asleep in her bedroom at 37 E. Regina Ave., north of Whitworth University. Schmidt’s daughter saw the two together earlier that night when they dropped her off at a friend’s home for a party.
Toni Schmidt found her daughter dead when she went to the home Jan. 1 about 2:45 p.m. when she went there to check on her because she hadn’t been heard from. The home was secure and the doors locked. She called Arteaga and spoke with him as she entered the home. She told him to call 911 after she found her daughter lying on her bed “surrounded in blood,” according to court documents. She then hung up and called 911, too.
As is standard in murder investigations, detectives immediately focused on those closest to the victim.
Arteaga and the father of Schmidt’s daughter, Joseph Regalado, allowed detectives to review their cellphones, each which showed “numerous text correspondents” with Schmidt on Dec. 31, according to court documents. Regalado told police he knew Schmidt was with Arteaga, whom he described as her former lover, before she was killed.
Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Drapeau filed search warrants with phone companies in March seeking cell tower information for the three phones that could help him determine where Schmidt, Arteaga and Regalado were about the time of the murder.
Chamberlin described the investigation as “lengthy” and said it’s ongoing.
“We don’t set a time frame for these major incidents. Obviously we can’t. There’s too much evidence,” Chamberlin said. “We have to take our time and make sure we’re extremely methodical to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
It’s unclear what led detectives to arrest Arteaga Tuesday, but Schmidt’s family and friends have long considered him a suspect.
Regaldo said they are relieved but now anticipating lengthy court proceedings.
“I think there’s a lot of happiness right now, along with a lot of anxiety because we know we’ve got a long road ahead of us now,” Regalado said.