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Phone records sought in Cassel killing

Mon., March 25, 2013, 2:12 p.m.

Spokane Police detectives have filed multiple new search warrants to try to recreate through phone records where two murder suspects were located when Heather Cassel was fatally shot on March 11.

Detective Jeff Barrington filed warrants late last week to also search Cassel’s car, obtain DNA samples and to check the phone records of 45-year-old Gary L. Stoddard and his 23-year-old nephew, Jonathan J.L. Ritchey, who both face murder charges for the killing of 20-year-old Cassel.

The court records also for the first time indicate that Cassel was shot through her lower back. Detectives believe Stoddard was chasing Cassel based on the distance between shell casings.

The second shot – which struck Cassel just below the left eye – was fired from such a short distance that detectives sought permission from a judge to check the gun barrel for Cassel’s DNA.

According to court records, Stoddard admitted shooting Cassel. The woman was quarreling the night of the shooting with Ritchey, who is the father of their child.

She was found dead at the College Terrace Apartments, 4150 W. Fort George Wright Drive, after officers responded around 4:30 a.m. on March 11 to reports of a woman screaming, gunshots and a car speeding away. A pair of handcuffs was clasped to one of her wrists but her other hand was free.

Stoddard remains in custody under a $1 million bond for the charges of first-degree kidnapping and murder. Ritchey also remains in custody on a $100,000 bond for the same charges.

Ritchey initially claimed he did not know anything about Cassel’s death. He later implicated his uncle, Stoddard, who previously was convicted of assault in a case where a woman claimed he had raped her and kept her captive at knifepoint.

Barrington believes Ritchey is “not being completely honest” about what he knew of Cassel’s killing, the detective wrote.

The night before the shooting, witnesses said Cassel and Ritchey were arguing about a person she recently met through Craigslist. Stoddard and Ritchey said Stoddard drove Cassel in her car from 720 W. Cora Ave. sometime after 3 a.m. on March 11.

Stoddard, also known as Michael Gary Stoddard, told detectives that he drove Cassel to a parking lot on West George Fort Wright Drive. Stoddard told detectives he put Cassel in handcuffs to try to control her.

Asked by detectives why he decided to shoot his nephew’s girlfriend, Stoddard replied, “When things came apart and I couldn’t control the situation,” according to court records.

According to Stoddard, Cassel had confided to him her plan to seek custody of the child she had with Ritchey.

Just before the shooting, Stoddard and Ritchey exchanged several phone calls and texts, most of which Ritchey deleted.

Barrington wrote in court records that detectives still have not located Stoddard’s cell phone. He was found to have an iPod Touch, which was also included in the search warrant.

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