January 12, 2012 in City

Charges are dropped in homicide case

Prosecutor says no evidence against man arrested as suspect
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Murder charges have been dropped against a Spokane man arrested for the homicide of a 62-year-old Stevens County woman.

Robert Cody Wirtz, 30, was released from jail on Tuesday, about a month after statements by his 4-year-old son led detectives to identify him as a suspect in the death of Narleen B. Campton, who was beaten to death in her home in Northport, Wash., near the Canadian border, in late November.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said he still believes Wirtz was involved in Campton’s death but “reluctantly” dropped the charge because he did not believe evidence exists to support a conviction.

The dismissal allows prosecutors to refile.

“The investigation is not over and will not be abandoned until the persons responsible for the brutal murder of this elderly person are brought to justice,” Rasmussen said in a prepared statement.

But private investigator Ted Pulver, who worked with Wirtz’s lawyer, Robert Simeone, said he found “concrete” evidence to show Wirtz was elsewhere when investigators believed he murdered Campton.

“It’s fortunate for Bob Wirtz that everywhere you go, there is a camera or some sort of report,” Pulver said.

Records showed Wirtz was obtaining a food stamp card when investigators allege he was at Campton’s home, Pulver said. Pulver also found receipts and surveillance videos that showed him using the card that day. He also determined Wirtz’s son was picked up by his mother before detectives believe Campton was killed.

“That was the real key,” Pulver said.

An autopsy concluded Campton died of blunt force and sharp trauma, including tortuous incisions on her face, but was also strangled, documents say. Her body was found Nov. 26 after a concerned neighbor called 911.

Wirtz was arrested Dec. 7 after detectives learned his son reported nightmares about a “dead lady” and provided details about the killing that they believe only could be known by someone who was involved.

The boy’s mother had contacted Child Protective Services on Nov. 24 – two days before Campton’s decomposing body was discovered.

Wirtz knew Campton through her 32-year-old son, Azariah E. Hulsey, and Hulsey’s girlfriend. Hulsey was in jail when Campton was killed, but his girlfriend reportedly wanted to visit the woman and at one point came over with two men, then left upon learning Hulsey was in jail.

Campton told a friend that her son’s girlfriend “had problems with methamphetamine and had stolen from her in the past.”

Rasmussen, who was not available for further comment Wednesday, emphasized that investigators have not cleared Wirtz of involvement in Campton’s death, rather “the state wants to make sure the evidence is available before a jury is sworn to hear the case,” he said.

Rasmussen said Simeone provided information “which has taken the investigation in a somewhat new direction.”

Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen did not return a phone call seeking comment.


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