September 21, 2012 in City

Graham to face murder charge

Detectives link attacks suspect to killing of Sharlotte McGill
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Graham
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Spokane police say they’ve caught a killer responsible for several violent attacks against women.

Major crimes detectives requested prosecutors charge 17-year-old Avondre C. Graham with second-degree murder for the brutal stabbing death of Sharlotte McGill in May, police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe announced Thursday.

Police declined to discuss what evidence linked Graham to the homicide but said he was interviewed within days of the May 3 incident and has remained a person of interest along with a number of others. It was not until he was arrested for a more recent attack in the area that detectives developed enough evidence to link Graham to the McGill case.

Since McGill was killed, detectives have interviewed many potential witnesses and suspects.

In the meantime, police said, Graham attacked two other women. He is in Spokane County Jail on charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree assault for allegedly attacking a woman with a mallet and stealing her phone while she was walking along the Centennial Trail near Mission Park on Sept. 13.

Graham was arrested after witness Joshua Gahl heard the bloodied victim’s screams for help and chased down Graham, who was quickly apprehended after he tried to escape by crossing the Spokane River.

Major crimes detectives have also linked Graham to at least one other assault along the Centennial Trail on Aug. 29.

In that case, a female Gonzaga University student was attacked around 8:40 a.m. while jogging on the Centennial Trail near Legacy Field. She told police the man tried to strike her in the face with a closed fist as she passed, but she turned to avoid being hit in the face and instead was struck in the back. The student, who said the assault was unprovoked, got away and called 911. Police responded but didn’t find the man.

While some question why Graham wasn’t apprehended sooner, police said homicide investigations are lengthy and complex and require substantial evidence to ensure a conviction.

Police indicated Thursday there could be additional arrests in the McGill case.

While they said they don’t believe anyone else was directly involved in the homicide, detectives added that they believe some people they interviewed lied to them or withheld information, delaying the investigation.

“We did have some witnesses we interviewed that we believe did not give us honest information,” said Spokane police Maj. Craig Meidl. “We rely on the community to help us out. When the people we rely on mislead us intentionally, that causes more delays.”

The location and the random and violent nature of the attacks were similar, and Graham matched the description McGill gave police as she lay dying of multiple stab wounds, police said. Graham lived in the same apartment complex as McGill on the 1800 block of East South Riverton Avenue.

More details about what led police to connect Graham to the McGill case will emerge once detectives submit an affidavit of probable cause to the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

Graham, whose family and friends packed a small courtroom Monday for a hearing on the mallet assault case, is being charged as an adult.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese set his bond for the assault and robbery charges at $250,000.

Police, who asked that any other victims of similar assaults come forward, called Graham’s arrest a victory for the community, which was left fearful after McGill’s homicide.

“They seem to be random attacks,” Meidl said. “There’s no telling how many other victims there would be if he weren’t off the street.”

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