A year ago Thursday, Ramona Childress was reported missing.
Her family feared the worst, her brother Abe Carroll said. She left behind two young children, her studies at Spokane Community College and a family that wanted nothing more than to have her found alive.
News of the worst came Thursday.
Spokane police exhumed human remains believed to be Childress in the woods near Elk. Her former boyfriend, Jason Flett, is suspected of killing her.
Detectives believe Flett, 27, stabbed Childress to death because he feared she would tell others about his alleged involvement in a series of home invasion robberies, Spokane police Lt. Mark Griffiths said. A confidential informant led detectives Thursday to a makeshift grave near the 17000 block of East Walters Road.
“There’s no longer that string of hope,” Carroll said.
The circumstances of Childress’ disappearance remain a mystery. She failed to pick up her children one day last year, according to a missing person report. It’s unknown whether she willingly went with Flett, or when he allegedly killed her.
Though Carroll had never met Flett, he said his sister had been dating him on and off since high school. Childress’ arm bore a tattoo with Flett’s name flanked by eagle wings, according to the missing person report.
Police arrested Flett Wednesday evening, according to records. He appeared in court Thursday afternoon on an unrelated assault charge. Investigators say Flett struck his current girlfriend, with whom he has a child, in the eye with a crowbar. A judge set his bail in that case at $25,000.
Flett has been implicated in violent crimes before. He was jailed following a late-night stabbing near NorthTown Mall in 2005. When police arrived on the scene, they found the victim with a knife protruding from his arm, according to court records. Flett claimed self-defense and eventually entered an Alford plea – maintaining his innocence but admitting a jury might find him guilty – to first-degree attempted assault. He was given an eight-year sentence, including up to four years of probation.
Flett pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge Wednesday, according to records.
Investigators received new information about the slaying about a month ago from Childress’ mother, which led them to a person who acknowledged being involved in disposing of Childress’ body.
The property where the remains were found once belonged to a family friend of Flett, but the current owners have no relation to the case.
Carroll remembers his sister as a bright, vivacious woman who “lived for being a mother.” She was studying to be a phlebotomist, hoping to provide a better life for her children, ages 3 and 6.
“It’s sad that it all came to this,” Carroll said.
The family is trying not to be angry, Carroll said, as that wouldn’t help them recover.
“She was loved deeply,” Carroll said. “So it’s just grief at this point.”
Flett remains in custody. Attorneys said he could appear in court to face a second-degree murder charge as early as today.