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Teen admitted killing woman on trail, police say

Avondre Graham (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Avondre Graham (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A teenager Spokane police had long suspected in the May stabbing death of Sharlotte McGill admitted to killing her, court documents filed Wednesday revealed.

While police suspected Avondre C. Graham, 17, of the slaying, they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him until getting a confession from him months later.

Graham, 17, is held in Spokane County Jail on a second-degree murder charge and also faces charges in attacks on two other women in the same area in which McGill was killed.

He told detectives he attacked the women because “I want them to feel the pain I feel.”

Graham told police he stabbed McGill because she used a racial slur and made a derogatory comment about the music he was listening to, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. He told police he had been similarly “teased and humiliated” while attending Spokane Public Schools.

He said he was upset because his uncle was pronounced brain dead in the hospital the day he attacked McGill.

He told police that early the morning of May 3, he was on the trail by the river near his apartment complex on the 1800 block of East South Riverton Avenue, sitting on a rock listening to music, when McGill, who was walking her dog, a pit bull terrier, passed him on the trail.

After McGill insulted him, Graham claimed, the two exchanged words before McGill continued down the path. Graham caught up with McGill and threw a baseball-sized rock at the back of her head, causing her to fall to her knees, he told detectives.

He then took a folding knife from his pocket and stabbed her repeatedly, he told police. She became incapacitated shortly after being placed in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. An autopsy showed she died of blood loss after suffering nine stab wounds to the upper body, neck and head.

After the attack, police say, Graham walked directly to his apartment, where he lived with his mother, Stephanie Miramontes, his siblings and his mother’s boyfriend.

McGill told witnesses who came to her aid immediately after the attack that she had seen the assailant before but didn’t know his name. Graham lived in the same apartment complex as McGill, who had moved in just days before she was killed.

Evidence collected from McGill was submitted to the Washington State Crime Lab for DNA analysis. The DNA profile of Graham and several other potential suspects were compared to a partial profile obtained from a hair found on McGill’s clothing and from under her fingernails, but they were not a match.

While detectives determined he was not a contributor to the DNA taken from McGill, he was not eliminated as a suspect in the case because hairs are easily transferable and McGill had extensive contact with medical staff and witnesses who had come to her aid, according to the affidavit.

After Graham was arrested Sept. 13 on suspicion of assaulting a woman with a mallet on the Centennial Trail near Mission Park, detectives again questioned him about McGill’s death because of the close proximity of the two attacks and because Graham matched the description McGill gave of her attacker before she died. Police say that’s when he admitted to killing her.

When initially questioned after McGill was killed, Graham, who had a cut on his right hand, said he had never left the apartment. Graham’s mother and uncle supported his alibi, investigators say.

Graham told police he closely followed news accounts of the homicide because of his involvement, but he also knew details of the attack that were never made public.

“During the interview, Graham was accurate in recalling the wording of McGill’s screams as she was being stabbed,” the affidavit said. “Graham’s account was the same as reported by several of the witnesses.”

He also provided detectives with a hand-drawn diagram of the crime scene and described her dog and her clothing.

Detectives have not located a weapon in the killing. Graham initially claimed he threw the knife in the river but later told investigators he wasn’t sure what happened to it.

Graham is also charged with attempted first-degree assault and first-degree robbery for the Sept. 13 attack, and with third-degree assault for allegedly punching a female Gonzaga University student Aug. 29.

Rodney McAuley, a staff member of Spokane Youth for Christ, which serves underprivileged and at-risk youth, works with Graham and his family.

“There is a grieving with not just Dre and that family, but with the victim and their family,” said McAuley, who described Graham as quiet and reserved.

“As an organization, as a ministry and as individuals, we certainly don’t condone anything that has transpired, but are committed to standing with Dre and his family throughout. There is a strong belief, a strong conviction that we have, that there is hope, even in the midst of difficult, tragic circumstances.

“Redemption and restoration are our conviction for all involved,” he said.

While Spokane Youth for Christ Executive Director Tom Davis also strongly emphasized that the agency does not condone the alleged actions, he said it will “continue to walk alongside Dre and to offer support any way we can, and to pray for him and to be with him in his darkest hour.

“He just has had a really rough life,” Davis said. “He’s dealt with some loss in his family. He’s an angry kid.”

McAuley recently visited Graham in jail.

“He’s broken,” he said.

Graham is scheduled to appear in court today.

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