It’s been 23 years since three Spokane prostitutes were found shot to death, their bodies left near the Spokane River. But Thursday, the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office called the cold cases solved.
Detectives forwarded three charges of first-degree murder against 61-year-old Donna Perry for the murders of Yolanda Sapp, Nickie Lowe and Kathleen Brisbois to the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s office Thursday, according to a news release.
Sapp, 26, was found Feb. 22, 1990, in the 4100 block of East Upriver Drive. On March 25, 1990, 34-year-old Nickie Lowe’s body was discovered in the 3200 block of East South Riverton underneath the Greene Street Bridge. Brisbois, 38, was found May 15, 1990, on the west side of the Spokane River near Trent Avenue and Pines Road in Spokane Valley.
All three were found naked and shot to death with a .22-caliber handgun. Though there were no other distinguishing marks on the victims, law enforcement always believed the three murders were somehow connected, according to previous Spokesman-Review reports.
That connection became clear when Perry, previously Douglas Perry, was arrested on federal charges of illegal firearms in March 2012, according to court documents. Though the arrest was unrelated to the murders, Spokane police Detective Mark Burbridge and sheriff’s Detective James Dresback used DNA evidence from the investigation to link Perry to the murder of Brisbois.
Federal investigators also discovered women’s panties inside a closet at Perry’s 2006 E. Empire Ave. home. Investigators believed the panties were kept as trophies, according to documents.
The investigation then led detectives to a Woodland, Wash., man in December, according to court documents. The man owned a vehicle previously owned by Perry. Detectives seized the vehicle with a search warrant and found a .22-caliber ammunition cartridge in the car, the same type of ammo that killed the three women.
At the time of the slayings, investigators believed them to be among the prostitutes murdered by serial killer Robert L. Yates. He was convicted of killing 13 women in Spokane County and two women in Pierce County in the late 1990s. Yates remains on death row.
Perry, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2000, is currently in a federal prison in Texas for the weapons charges. She will be arrested and returned to Spokane after charges have officially been filed by the prosecutor’s office, police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said.