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Murder charge filed in retired principal’s beating death

An 18-year-old man accused of killing a veterans hospital employee and retired principal who was trying to break up an underage drinking party has been charged with murder.

Treven Lewis, who is in jail, is expected to appear before a Spokane County Superior Court judge on the new charge of second-degree murder as early as Wednesday, where he’ll be assigned a future court date and will have an opportunity to ask for a reduced bail.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla filed the charge on Monday after an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office concluded Frank J. Motta, 65, died of contusions to the brain because of blunt head injuries. His manner of death was ruled homicide. Lewis had been jailed on a first-degree assault charge since March 13.

Lewis is accused of beating Motta as Motta tried to clear out a party thrown March 10 by a neighbor’s son in the 11800 block of North Bedivere Drive in north Spokane County.

Two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies were with Motta when he responded to the party and were standing outside when the assault occurred. Officials say they did not have authority to enter the home; Motta had been given the security code to the garage by the neighbor, who was out of town and had asked him to clear out the party.

Motta died Thursday night at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. His memorial service will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Mead. His friends and coworkers created the “Frank Motta Memorial Fund” account at Wells Fargo for donations

Witnesses told deputies Lewis pushed Motta to the ground and punched him in the head after Motta nudged Lewis’ girlfriend while telling her and other guests to leave, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Motta was an Air Force veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. He later worked as a high school teacher, principal and coach.

Motta began in 2009 volunteering at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was hired as a patient advocate four months ago. His wife, Virginia, and daughter, Jami, also volunteer there. Hospital administrators say the staff is devastated by Motta’s death and are seeking answers – and justice.

Court records show Lewis’ criminal history began at a young age.

He was accused of damaging a car when he was 12, which was followed by arrests for robbery, harassment, marijuana possession, obstructing law enforcement, and malicious mischief, as well as numerous arrests for assault.

Lewis repeatedly violated his juvenile probation by skipping school, smoking marijuana and failing to check in with his probation officer. He also failed to complete an “aggression replacement training class” in April 2008, according to court documents.

His most recent adult felony conviction came last June when he pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary for an incident in May 2010 in which he chased his girlfriend into her neighbor’s home while carrying a shovel and threatening to kill her, according to court records.

Lewis pushed open the door to the home and hit the woman repeatedly before he was removed by the homeowner’s 16-year-old son. Lewis then threw a brick threw the front window, shattering it.

Lewis was arrested again just one day after he pleaded guilty, accused of assaulting the homeowner in an early morning attack that left her needing stitches.

The girlfriend targeted by Lewis in May 2010 is not the same woman Lewis was with when he allegedly delivered the punch that killed Motta. Lewis has been with that woman since at least last summer, when he was cited for misdemeanor domestic violence and she was listed as the victim. The charge was dismissed because of lack of evidence, according to court records.

Lewis was jailed on a second-degree assault charge for the alleged attack last June, but he released after posting $5,000 bond on July 8. He was awaiting a May trial date when he was identified as a suspect in Motta’s fatal beating.

His arrest last Tuesday at his apartment in the 1400 block of North Atlantic Street violated the terms of his release conditions for the June assault case, so a judge imposed an additional $100,000 bond that he’ll have to post along with the $250,000 bond for the new case.



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