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Body buried in woods may be that of missing Malden teen

Investigators searching for a missing teenager found a body buried on wooded land in northern Spokane County on Wednesday.

Though the remains have not been identified, authorities confirmed that they were investigating the death of Donavin Stapert, 17. Investigators believe he may have died on March 7 in a home in the small town of Malden in Whitman County.

The body was buried 4-5 feet underground, said Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Craig Chamberlin. The wooded property northeast of Schwachtgen and Owens roads in Chattaroy is owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Three adults are accused of providing Stapert methamphetamine, covering up his death and hiding his body. Two of them face homicide charges.

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers said investigators learned Tuesday that Stapert’s body may have been buried on the land. Myers declined to say how the property emerged in the investigation.

The last homicide the office worked on also occurred in Malden in 2011, Myers said. In that case a man was shot on Dec. 27, 2011, and was found floating in a creek three months later.

“We’ve been working this around the clock,” Myers said. “It’s very taxing, but it’s a priority.”

Stapert’s mother, Crystal Rothbarth, of Oregon, said Stapert grew up mostly in Spokane and attended several schools, including Glover Middle School and Audubon and Lidgerwood elementary schools.

Chastity Dawn Barkhuff, 38, of Malden, and James L. Ramson, 30, of Spokane, were arrested Saturday and booked into the Whitman County Jail. Bail was set for each at $250,000. Barkhuff is charged with controlled substance homicide, providing methamphetamine to a minor and unlawful disposal of a body. Ramson is charged with unlawful disposal of a body, rendering criminal assistance and possession of meth.

Bobby Bilderback, 44, of Malden, was jailed in Missoula on Monday on charges of deliberate homicide, distributing a dangerous drug to a minor and possession, according to jail records.

Bilderback and Ramson have a history of violent crime. Bilderback was released from prison in 2010 after serving 23 years on a first-degree murder sentence from Chelan County. When Ramson was 16, he was charged as an adult and sentenced to 80 months in prison for assaulting a man on the steps of the county courthouse in Corvallis, Ore. News reports from the time say Ramson and another teen were selling magazines when they assaulted a 53-year-old who was critically injured in the attack. The victim was a former city councilman from Adair, Ore.

Myers said investigators believe that Stapert died at a home in Malden where Barkhuff and Bilderback lived. He said Stapert and his father, Jason Stapert, lived a few blocks away.