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Police hone homicide case

Warrants seek phone data, possible DNA on gun

Spokane police detectives are trying to determine where two homicide suspects were on March 11 when Heather Cassel was shot and killed as she fled across the lawn of an apartment complex on Fort George Wright Drive.

Detective Jeff Barrington believes one of the two men arrested is “not being completely honest” about his knowledge of the crime, according to court documents, and police are using search warrants to find answers.

Police have arrested 45-year-old Gary L. Stoddard and his 23-year-old nephew, Jonathan J.L. Ritchey. Both face charges of murder and first-degree kidnapping and both remain jailed. Stoddard’s bond has been set at $1 million. Ritchey’s is $100,000.

Stoddard has admitted shooting Cassel, 20, according to court records. She was found dead at the College Terrace Apartments, 4150 W. Fort George Wright Drive, after officers responded around 4:30 a.m. to reports of a woman screaming, gunshots and a car speeding away. Handcuffs were clasped to one of her wrists, but the other hand was free.

The new search warrants ask for permission to search Cassel’s car and to check Stoddard’s and Ritchey’s phone records.

In addition, detectives sought permission from a judge to check the gun barrel of the weapon for Cassel’s DNA, because it was fired so close to her face.

The court records say Cassel first was shot through her lower back. Detectives believe Stoddard was chasing Cassel based on the distance between shell casings. The second shot struck Cassel just below the left eye.

According to court records, Cassel had been quarreling the night of the shooting with Ritchey, the father of her child.

Ritchey at first claimed he didn’t know anything about Cassel’s death. He later implicated his uncle, Stoddard, who has felony convictions, including an assault case where a woman claimed he raped her and held her at knifepoint.

Barrington expressed doubts about Ritchey’s truthfulness in the court records.

The night before the shooting, witnesses said Cassel and Ritchey were arguing about a person she met through Craigslist.

Stoddard and Ritchey have told police that Stoddard drove Cassel in her car from 720 W. Cora Ave. sometime after 3 a.m. on March 11.

Stoddard later told police that he drove her to the apartments near Spokane Falls Community College and that he had trouble controlling her.

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 found Stoddard’s cellphone.

Detectives want information from “cell tower dump sites and any GPS data which can be used to confirm the location of Gary L. Stoddard, Jonathan Ritchey, and Heather Cassel on or about … the morning of the murder,” court records say.