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A Bonner County man on Monday was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a 19-year man who was reported missing in September and found recently buried in a shallow grave, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Austin Blake Thrasher, 19, (left) is accused of killing Michael Wyatt Smith, (right) the sheriff’s office said.
Thrasher’s wife, Jennifer Dunnagan Thrasher, 22, (bottom left) and Christopher Garlin, 19, (bottom right) each face a charge of accessory to murder.
Smith was reported missing Sept. 15 from a residence on the Hope Peninsula and was last seen walking on Penninsula Road in Hope on Sept. 13, the office reported.
Detectives received a tip early last month that a 19-year-old was picked up near Hope “on the pretense of attending a party,” the news release said.
Detectives were told that the teen was instead driven to a woods, shot twice and moved to an unknown location and buried.
Detectives found Smith’s body in a shallow grave on private property off of Wellington Road, north of Hope, the news release said.
The defendants already were in the Bonner County Jail when they became suspects in Smith’s murder.
Last month they were arrested in connection with the burglary of Pawn Now in Ponderay.
A 2007 Nissan Pathfinder is towed Sunday after being taken from the Aders’ home and left parked near Monroe Street and Wellesley Avenue. (SRphoto/Colin Mulvany)
Police continue to search for a man suspected of killing two young boys and their mother Friday in Spokane.
Dustin William Gilman, 22, (pictured) is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who sees him or has information on where he may be should call 911.
Gilman has been wanted since Friday, when the bodies of Tracy Ader, 32, and her 8- and 10-year-old boys were found in their home at 4411 N. Whitehouse St. Police believe he may be heavily armed with weapons stolen from the home, including a bullet-proof vest.
Police believe Gilman murdered the three while Ader's husband, Nick Ader, was in the hospital.
Gilman has been staying with the Aders for the last few months. Tracy Ader's mother and stepfather said he spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with them at their Spokane Valley and was great with the boys.
Ader and her sons are pictured left in a photo provided by her family.
Ader worked at Pitney Bowes, a business service company, with Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34, who was found shot to death in her north Spokane home on New Year’s Day. No one has been arrested in that case, but sheriff’s detectives say they have a person of interest.
“Tracy was having a hard time dealing with that because (Schmidt) was a direct coworker of hers,” said Steve Ponsness, Ader's stepfather.
Ponsnesskept a gun at his side Saturday as police searched for Gilman, who is believed to have stolen Ader's 2007 Nissan Pathfinder.
A citizen spotted the Pathfinder near West Wellesley Avenue and North Monroe Street Sunday and notified police, who are searching it for evidence.
Gilman is a convicted felon who was sentenced to nine months in jail in 2009 after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree trafficking in stolen property. He has an extensive juvenile criminal history, including convictions in Kootenai County in 2005 for stolen property and car theft. Court records show he was arrested for assault when he was 10.
A Deer Park man accused of strangling his ex-wife and posing her dead body had her death certificate displayed in his home when detectives arrested him this week, detectives say.
Clay Duane Starbuck, 47, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder and sexually violating human remains in the death of Chanin Denice Starbuck, 42. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. The only other punishment if convicted of aggravated first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Starbuck, a former Alaska oil worker with no criminal history, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Friday afternoon via video from the jail after prosecutors formally charged him Thursday. He remains in jail on $1 million bond.
MOUNTAIN CITY, Tenn. (AP) — A father who was upset after a Tennessee couple deleted his adult daughter as a friend on Facebook has been charged in the shooting deaths of the couple, authorities said Wednesday.The victims had complained to police that Marvin's Potter's daughter was harassing them after they deleted her as a friend on the social networking site, Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece said Wednesday.
Potter, 60, (pictured left) has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder last week's slayings of Billy Payne Jr. and his girlfriend, Billie Jean Hayworth. The couple was shot to death in their Mountain City home in the far northeast corner of the state. Their 8-month-old baby was found unharmed in Hayworth's arms.
“It's a senseless thing,” the sheriff said.Authorities have been involved other cases where Potter's daughter, Jenelle Potter, believed she had been slighted by someone.
Marvin Potter's friend, Jamie Curd, has also been charged in the killings. Curd, 38, (pictured right) had romantic feelings for Jenelle Potter, 30, the sheriff said.
Potter and Curd were arraigned Wednesday. Potter asked for time to hire an attorney while Curd was assigned a public defender who did not immediately return a phone message.
Assistant District Attorney General Matthew Roark said Curd's initial bond was raised to $1.5 million while Roark agreed to put off a bond hearing for Potter until next week, when he is expected to have an attorney. Potter remains jailed on his initial $200,000 bond.
The victims lived with Billy Payne Sr., who was the last person to see them alive. He told detectives he saw Hayworth get up to feed the baby before he left for work at about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 31.
The slayings were discovered about five hours later when a former neighbor stopped by to pick up mail the family would save for him.
The younger Payne was found in his bedroom, and Hayworth was found in the baby's room.
A decision Tuesday by appellate judges most likely ended all legal recourse for a man convicted of killing his 19-year-old employee in a brutal slaying that will forever haunt a Ferry County man who witnessed it and barely escaped with his own life.
The Division III Court of Appeals denied an argument by Cory J. Monaghan, 38, of Maple Valley, Wash., that he was not guilty by reason of insanity of first-degree murder for killing Jeremy Karavias and first-degree arson for setting fire to his uncle’s Malo, Wash., home in 2008.
“He killed and butchered that kid,” Ron Wessel said of his nephew, Monaghan. Karavias “was just an innocent kid. I think about it every day.”
A Deer Park mother of five found strangled to death in her home was positioned in a way to humiliate her and make detectives believe she had been sexually assaulted, according to information released Tuesday.
Clay Duane Starbuck, 47, is accused of murdering his ex-wife, Chanin Denice Starbuck, 42, after luring her from her home with their children, then breaking in and hiding until she returned, detectives wrote in a warrant that was used to search the suspect’s home at 1625 E. 2nd St. Monday night. Investigators seized dozens of items, including cameras, documents, computers and a cell phone.
Starbuck, a former oil worker in Alaska with no criminal history, was arrested Monday morning during a traffic stop in Deer Park. He remains in jail on $1 million bond after appearing in Spokane County Superior Court this afternoon on charges of aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree burglary. He’s prohibited from contacting his children, who are witnesses in the case. Spokane County sheriff’s officials say the children are staying with a close family friend.
The ex-husband of a woman found strangled in her Deer Park home has been arrested for murder.
Clay Duane Starbuck was booked into jail Monday for the murder of Chanin Denice Starbuck, 42, who was found dead in her home at 509 N. Reiper St. Dec. 3. Deputies arrested him without incident during a traffic stop this morning in Deer Park.
The Starbucks, who have five children between the ages of 10 and 21, were in the midst of a contentious divorce when Chanin was killed.
A man targeted by Crime Stoppers for failing to register as a sex offender committed the same crime three years ago while haunted by the brutal jailhouse murder of his son.
William R. Rentz, 58, was convicted of third-degree child molestation in Cowlitz County in 1994.
He was living in an abandoned van at a gas station in the winter of 2008-2009 and walked to the police station to register as a sex offender each week. He left for Idaho without notifying authorities when his brother learned he was living in the unheated van, according to court documents.
Rentz never registered in Idaho, which led to his criminal conviction in 2010.
Rentz is the father of Christopher Lee Rentz, a 21-year-old gas theft suspect who was brutally murdered by cellmates Michael Lee West and Brandon West Martin in the Spokane County Jail in 2004.
The county settled a lawsuit over Rentz's death for $180,000, and Martin and West were convicted of murder. West is now accused of brutally assaulting two other inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.
Rentz considered his son to be his best friend and has not recovered from his murder, according to a memorandum his public defender, Kari Reardon, filed before his sentencing in 2010 for failing to register as a sex ofender.
Rentz was in jail, too, when he was son was killed, Reardon wrote. Jailers put him on suicide watch after informing him of the murder.
“Unfortunately for William, part of him died with Chris,” according to a letter from his brother, Terry Rentz that was included with the memo.
Terry Rentz described how he searched for his brother at various convenience stores when he learned of his condition. He said his brother was physically unable to register, and when he was, “he could not face the fact hat he would need to contact the sheriff in the same building in which his son was murdered.”
William Rentz, who was credited for 417 days served in jail at his sentencing in 2010, suffers from mild dementia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic injury caused when he was buried in concrete, according to the memo.
A no-bail warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 25 for failing to register as a sex offender, a felony. Crime Stoppers last week offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.
Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.
The suspected shooter charged with the July 17 killing of a 63-year-old Colville man has been found competent to stand trial.
Eric L. Booth, 26, is expected to appear in court next Tuesday to schedule a trial, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said this week. But based on preliminary discussions, a trial may not be necessary, Rasmussen said.
Booth is charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Gordon Feist in what detectives believe was a botched robbery. Also charged are 27-year-old Jesse J. Fellman-Shimmin and 25-year-old Collette Marie Pierce.
Booth and his attorney, Paul Wasson, have been working with law enforcement, Rasmussen said.
A Spokane man has been convicted of second-degree murder for a fatal stabbing in Plummer, Idaho, last year.
Jody Allen Miller, 40, (left) entered an Alford plea this morning in Benewah County District Court for the April 17 murder of Antowyn D. “Tony” Swiney, 37, (right) the St. Maries Gazette Record reports.
He faces 25 years in prison when he's sentenced April 13. The plea means he does not admit guilty but acknowledges there was enough evidence to convict him.
Miller stabbed Swiney to death at Swiney's girlfiend's home in Plummer after Swiney left a Spokane bar to avoid a confrontation.
Irael Kennedy (right) pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in October and is to be sentenced next month.
Stephen Milton and Kennedy's mother, Kelly A. Miller, pleaded guilty to felony criminal accessory charges in August.
William F. Hanel's burned body was found inside this home on Oct. 12, 2010, after firefighers responded to a blaze there. (SRPhoto/Jonathan Brunt)
A man accused of helping a killer torch his victim's home in 2010 is wanted by police.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that lead to the arrest of Eric Andersen, 46, whose last known home address was in Grant County.
Detectives believe Andersen helped Ryan D. Corkery, 28, burn William Frazier Hanel's home at 12036 S. Player Drive on Oct. 12, 2010.
Corkery strangled Hanel, 56, to death with an electrical cord a couple days earlier and enlisted the help of Andersen and Mark A. Hoffman, 24, to cover the crime, prosecutors say.
Andersen was arrested a week after Hanel's body was found in the burning home, but prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges about two months later.
Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said today that he filed charges again on Jan. 18 after a new witness became available. He declined to comment further.
Corkery, who claimed Hanel molested a relative, was sentenced in December to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. Hoffman was sentenced in January 2011 to six months in jail for first-degree rendering criminal assistance and residential burglary.
Andersen is wanted on a $40,000 warrant charging him with first-degree arson, residential burglary and first-degree rendering criminal assistance. His last known address is in the 100 block of N.W. Quincy Place in Soap Lake.
Anyone with information on Andersen's current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.
Detectives have expanded the criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of a north Spokane mother to include two civil lawsuits naming the victim.
Each lawsuit involves separate scuba diving accidents; one left a man dead and another allegedly left a woman with brain damage.
Although no arrests have been made in the homicide case, Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Mike Drapeau said he is waiting on evidence to come back from the state crime lab and that investigators have focused on an individual who had been romantically involved with 34-year-old Kimberly R. Schmidt.
A man wanted for murder in Florida was arrested in Spokane today.
Federal agents found Demarcus R. Ledent, 31, in the 8000 block of North Hill N Dale Street, just north of East Magnesium Road off North Division Street.
A warrant for Ledent's arrest was issued Jan. 4 in Pensacola, Fla., for the July 2007 homicide of Barry Shipp, 48.
The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force learned Ledent had fled Florida and was living in Spokane, according to a news release.
According to a 2007 video from WKRG TV in Pensacola, which is posted above, Shipp, who was married with children, was shot to death at a family-owned barber shop.
Forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick poses with her laptop showing two composite sketches of a suspect in the 1991 killing of a Washington teenager, in Huntington Beach, Calif., Wednesday. The analysis on a DNA profile from the suspect shows that he is distantly related to three passengers who arrived in what is now Plymouth, Mass., on the Mayflower in 1620. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — William S. Fuller followed the news with interest this week when detectives announced a strange new lead in the search for a man who killed his friend's daughter two decades ago.
Relying on a new DNA analysis, the detectives said the unknown suspect is a distant relative of Edward and Samuel Fuller, who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620 — and that he might even share their last name.
It was an awkward coincidence, the present-day Fuller told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The 68-year-old worked for many years with the father and grandfather of Sarah Yarborough, a 16-year-old girl who was raped and strangled in the Seattle suburb of Federal Way in 1991. His daughter was one of Yarborough's best friends, and he spearheaded the effort to build a memorial for her. Fuller said he doesn't know if he's related to the Pilgrims, but he is certain that no one in his family could be the culprit.
“Is it something we're worried about? No, not at all,” Fuller said. “Because they know how close we were to the Yarboroughs, some people have asked about it jokingly, but they know it's not a good question.”
The King County Sheriff's Office, long stymied by the case, announced this week that it had sent the suspect's DNA profile to forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, who runs Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Identifinders International. Fitzpatrick noticed that the killer's DNA strongly correlated with DNA profiles published as part of a genealogical study of the Fuller family.
Specifically, she said, the killer is a descendant of Robert Fuller, who arrived in Salem, Mass., in 1630. Fuller was not himself on the Mayflower, but he was related to three passengers: Edward Fuller, as well as Edward Fuller's brother, Samuel, and 12-year-old son.
Fitzpatrick's analysis followed the Y chromosome — the male line of the family — and therefore, there's a good chance the killer's last name is or was Fuller, she said.
Detectives searched through their tip database following Fitzpatrick's finding, but no one named Fuller has ever been fingered as a potential suspect in Yarborough's death, King County sheriff's detective Jim Allen said.
Today, there are tens of millions of people descended from the 102 passengers and about 25 crewmembers who arrived on the Mayflower, according to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Nine presidents have been related to those original Pilgrims.
Yarborough was last seen alive on a Saturday morning in December 1991, when she left home to take part in a dance team competition. Her body was found later that morning.
There were plenty of people at the high school that day. In addition to those arriving for the dance competition, there were some school-related activities and people out running or walking their dogs, Allen said. About six people saw the suspect — including two kids, a jogger, a man who helped create a sketch of the suspect, and a girl on the drill team.
They described him as being in his 20s, white, 6 feet tall or just under, with shoulder-length blond hair, a trench coat and dark pants. One saw the suspect interacting with her, and some saw him leaving the brushy area where her body was found.
In the months after the slaying, more than 3,000 tips poured in, students began packing pepper spray, and parents marshaled in the hallways outside of classes to reassure their children they were safe.
Allen said he is interested in speaking with William Fuller, who still lives in Federal Way, a south Seattle suburb, and who was 48 at the time of the killing.
Fuller, a longtime coworker and friend of Yarborough's father and grandfather at Weyerhaeuser Corp., told the AP he has five daughters and no sons, and he himself was an only child, so he has no nephews that could have matched the description. His family has been able to trace their lineage no farther than a great-grandfather in Idaho, he said.
Fuller said that when Yarborough was killed, he was only about one-third of a mile away, running on the track at the junior high school.
“I remember that back then I was running — I ran 20 to 25 miles per week,” Fuller said. “Periodically I'd run at the high school track, but during the time she was killed I was running at the junior high. What if I had decided to go run at the high school? Knowing I was so close when it happened really bothered me for a long time. But you can't beat yourself up like that.”
If he had been at the high school track, he said, “certainly if she had screamed or yelled I would have heard it. But the Lord works — well, that wasn't where I was supposed to be.”
After the killing, Fuller said he joined other parents in roaming the hallways of the school during and between classes, as a way to reassure their children that they were safe. Weyerhaeuser gave him time off to raise money to build a memorial on the school's campus, and he commissioned an artist to sculpt a bench accompanied by a pile of books, a pair of ballet slippers and a necktie — the last because the week before she died, Yarborough won an ugly necktie contest.
The idea for the memorial came about “simply from talking to the parents and saying we ought to do something,” Fuller said.
When the news about the apparent Mayflower link came out, Fuller spoke with his daughter Elizabeth, who was one of Yarborough's best friends and who now lives in Kentucky.
“It's encouraging, but she has mixed emotions,” Fuller said. “It's emotional when you bring it up. We've been hoping and praying for a break in the case.”
Murder charges have been dropped against a Spokane man arrested for the homicide of a 62-year-old Stevens County woman.
Robert Cody Wirtz, 30, was released from jail on Tuesday, about a month after statements by his 4-year-old son led detectives to identify him as a suspect in the death of Narleen B. Campton, who was beaten to death in her home in Northport, Wash., near the Canadian border, in late November.
A man who pleaded guilty to murder before his conviction was overturned because of a procedural error repeatedly denied involvement in the crime Wednesday as he was sentenced to 39 years in prison.
“I admit I am a criminal, but a murderer I am not,” said Michael Duke Coombes, 34.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese cited his lack of remorse when agreeing to the maximum sentence recommended by deputy prosecutors Steve Garvin and Kyle Treece. The 476-month sentence includes a 60-month firearm enhancement.
“How can you have remorse for something you didn't do?” asked Coombes, who had previously been sentenced to 27 years. “I can't show remorse because I wasn't there.”
Plese also cited Coombes' criminal history, and the fact that he illegally possessed a firearm when he was arrested for the Aug. 31, 2007, shooting death of William “Red” Nichols, 53, in Hillyard.
Coombes, who tattooed an image of the gun that he used to kill Nichols on his leg, previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, but his sentencing documents erroneously did not indicate he would be eligible for time off for good behavior during his first 20 years.
Appellate judges allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea and Coombes decided to take the case to trial. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder Dec. 19. He also was convicted of witness tampering for asking another inmate at the Spokane County Jail to contact a witness.
Garvin said at trial that Coombes said he shot Nichols in the head because he threatened his nephew.
Coombes' mother told Plese Wednesday that she believes her son is innocent. Nichols' niece read a statement on behalf of her mother that condemned Coombes and said the family does not forgive him.
Coombes was represented by public defender Jeff Compton.
The parents of a woman found dead of a gunshot wound in her home on New Year's Day are thanking the community for the outpouring show of support.
“There was so much evil when I walked into that house. The outpouring from her friends has really helped ease that,” said Toni Schmidt, mother of homicide victim Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34 (pictured).
More than 500 people attended Schmidt's memorial service on Sunday, with many standing in the hallways because they were not able to get in the room. Attendees included seven women who met Schmidt at a camp on Orcas Island when she was 19. They hadn't seen her in years, but made the drove from the Western Washington to pay their respects.
Toni Schmidt and Randall Schmidt were not able to greet everyone at the service, and they said Tuesday night that they want to make sure everyone knows how much they appreciate the support.
The Schmidts declined to discuss the details of the investigation into their daughter's death but said they feel the case will be solved.
They hinted at possible domestic violence issues with Schmidt, which they said were surprising at first because “she was an extremely strong and intelligent person,” Toni Schmidt said.
Schmidt was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School and Eastern Washington University. She loved the ocean and was planning to scuba dive in Manila, Philippines when she went there for a two-week business trip for next month. She leaves behind a 12-year-old daughter.
Toni Schmidt called police after finding her daughter on Jan. 1 in her home on East Regina Avenue.
Sheriff's investigators arrived to find Schmidt dead in her bed with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved.
They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents. They seized the .25 semi-automatic handgun,, as well as .25 shell casing located on her bed, along with a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.
Detectives also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition. They also found a cell phone with its battery removed in a black purse on the kitchen table, according to the search warrant.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
(from left) Spokane police Officers Shaney Redmon, Ron Tilley and Mylissa Coleman prepare to travel to Tacoma for a slain park ranger's memorial service. (SPDphoto/Jennifer DeRuwe)
Members of the Spokane Police Department Honor Guard will attend slain Mount Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson's memorial service.
Cpl. Mike McCasland and Officers Ron Tilley, Mylissa Coleman and Shaney Redmon traveled to Tacoma for Anderson's memorial, which is today is at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Pacific Lutheran University.
Other SPD employees are attending the service on their own time, including Officer Teresa Fuller, who says the Spokane County Firefighters Pipes and Drums also will be there.
Anderson (pictured) was shot to death on New Year's Day while working at the park. The gunman was found dead the next day. Anderson was married to another Rainier ranger, and the couple has two young children.
Family and friends held a candlelight service Sunday evening in Eatonville in her memory.
The park reopened to the public Saturday for the first time since the shooting.
A memorial service for a 34-year-old Spokane woman is scheduled for Sunday - one week after she was found dead of a gunshot wound.
Kimberly Rae Schmidt will be remembered at the Heritage Funeral Home, 508 N. Government Way, at 1 p.m.
Her coworkers at Pitney Bowes business-services company, where Schmidt worked as the leasing manager, are expected to attended.
Kathryn Epler worked for Schmidt and said she was a great boss and “very caring to everybody.”
Schmidt's murder has devastated her coworkers, Epler said.
“It's very hard to work,” she said. “We're all stunned that this could happen to someone who is so likable.”
Schmidt was planning a business trip overseas early next month, Epler said. She planned to spend her days off scuba diving, which Epler said was one of her passions.
“There's no way this was a suicide or anything like that,” Epler said.
Schmidt's mother found her dead in her home at 37 E. Regina Ave. Jan. 1.
The Medical Examiner's Office has not determined whether Schmidt's death was a homicide, but detectives are investigating it as one.
Schmidt was located in bed on her back with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved.
They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents. They seized the .25 semi-automatic handgun, as well as .25 shell casing located on her bed, along with a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.
Detectives also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition.
They also found a cell phone with its battery removed in a black purse on the kitchen table, according to the search warrant.
Schmidt was born in Spokane, graduated from Shadle Park High School and Eastern Washington University.
“Kim's pride and joy was her daughter and her hard work in dance and school,” according to her obituary. “Her favorite title was “Dance Mom” and enjoyed watching, with a little sadness how her —lil' monkey was growing into a young lady.” Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
Relatives of Jared Francom from second left, brother Travis Francom, Travis' wife Jessica Francom, and brothers Ben Francom and Gunner Francom attend a candle light vigil Thursday for law enforcement officers shot the night before in Ogden, Utah. Jared Francom died from his wounds.(AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Kim Raff)
By PAUL FOY,Associated Press
OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.
That's when the gunfire erupted.
When it was over Wednesday night, a 7-year veteran officer was dead and five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically. The suspect, an Army veteran whose estranged father said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been self-medicating with marijuana, was injured.
Now, as the city tries to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators are trying to determine how the raid as part of a drug investigation could have gone so terribly wrong.
“It's a very, very sad day,” an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said Thursday.
About 400 people, including officers in uniform from across Utah, attended a candlelight vigil to honor slain Ogden officer Jared Francom (pictured right) at an outdoor amphitheater Thursday evening. A moment of silence was observed, and a slide show of Francom and his fellow officers wounded in the shooting was shown.
Francom's wife of seven years, Erin, (pictured left) stood on stage and fought back tears during the short program. The couple has two daughters, ages 5 and 3. Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.
They would not say, for instance, whether the shootout took place entirely inside the home or spilled out into the yard, how many shots were fired and how many guns were recovered.
There will be several investigations, including one by Ogden police and another outside probe by prosecutors.
Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.
Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart's home, which sits across the street from a Mormon church meeting house.
Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, authorities said. He does not have an attorney yet.
Utah court records show Stewart's criminal history includes only a 2005 conviction for a class B misdemeanor traffic violation — operating a vehicle without insurance. A judge found him guilty after a bench trial and ordered him to pay a $350 fine.
State officials also placed a pair of tax liens on Stewart last August.
Stewart served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show.
He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. Both are given for completing active service, although they don't indicate exceptional acts of valor.
Stewart's father, Michael Stewart, said his son works a night shift at a local Walmart and may have been sleeping when police arrived.
“When they kicked in the door, he probably felt threatened,” said Michael Stewart, who has been estranged from his son for more than a year, but keeps track of him through his two other sons.
The elder Stewart said his son suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and may have been treating it with small amounts of pot. He said he believes his son may have been growing the weed himself.
He said he didn't believe his son owned any automatic weapons and that the family is upset by what happened. “This is my son's problem and we're grieving for him and all of the officers,” Michael Stewart said. “I'm dead sick about it.”
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn't yet clear what charges Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes.
“But it appears right now, with the information we have, that we have an aggravated murder as well as a number of other attempted aggravated murders,” Smith said, choking back tears.
Aggravated murder is a capital crime and, if convicted, Stewart could face the death penalty.
By midday Thursday, more than 1,000 friends and strangers had expressed their support and gratitude for Francom and his family on a memorial Facebook page with prayers, poems and other message. Some posters swapped out their profile pictures for a black logo with a blue stripe representing fallen officers.
Francom's three brothers held a short news conference just before Thursday's vigil, lauding him as an “awesome man,” who loved adventure and was an example of service and dedication.
“He died doing what he loved,” said Travis Francom, 25. “He worried at times for his safety … not so much for himself but for his family, his wife and little girls. I don't think he was ever afraid.”
Travis Francom (pictured) thanked the community for the outpouring of support shown for the family and asked for continued prayers for the other officers.
“I would also encourage you to remember the family of the suspect as they have a long road ahead of them as well,” he said. “I'm sure this must be a difficult time for them.”
Authorities said the conditions of the other officers ranged from serious to critical. They are Ogden officers Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles, Weber County sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson and Roy officer Jason VanderWarf.
Kevin Burrell, Kasey Burrell's father, said his son was shot in the head. A seven-year veteran of the police force, the younger Burrell was sedated but appears to be improving, his father said.
On Wednesday, witnesses said they heard three quick pops followed by a two- to three-minute pause, then lots of gunfire and officers yelling at someone to “put your hands up,” in the backyard.
Outside Stewart's house on Thursday armed SWAT officers clothed in camouflage remained on guard as police continued their search of the property. The yard was taped off and dotted with numbered evidence markers.
Residents said they were shocked to hear there was any drug activity in the area or a shootout on their street.
“This has always been a quiet neighborhood. We've been here for 11 years,” said Andrew Mair, who said his wife hid in the couple's basement in fear when the gunfire rang out. “I've never heard anything crazy going on.”
Detectives investigating the shooting death of a north Spokane woman found a handgun in a bag next to her body, according to documents filed Wednesday.
The gun was one of seven recovered from the home at 37 E. Regina Sunday night by Spokane County sheriff's detectives investigating the death of Kimberly Rae Schmidt, 34.
They were called to the home about 2:30 p.m. after Schmidt's mother, Toni Schmidt, found Schmidt dead in her bed after coming to the home to check on her.
Kim Schmidt was located in bed on her back with a gunshot wound to the right side of her head. A lamp had been knocked over, and detectives noted blood smeared on the wall at the head of the bed that indicated Schmidt's body had been moved. They also found a small cloth, drawstring bag to Schmidt's left that had the front portion of the barrel of a gun visible, according to court documents.
Detectives obtained a search warrant and seized the gun, which was identified as a .25 semi-automatic handgun with a magazine containing five bullets. A .25 shell casing was located on the bed next to Schmidt, as well as a fleece blanket with a bullet hole in it.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office has not concluded whether Schmidt's death was a homicide and say they are awaiting the police investigation. Police say the consider the case a homicide and say detectives found no suicide note. They seized a pillows, clothes and other items from the room. They also seized three guns from a gun safe downstairs, and three from a laundry room cabinet, as well as ammunition.
Schmidt is the mother a young girl. She is listed as a 1995 graduate of Shadle Park High School and 2004 graduate of Eastern Washington University, where she studied accounting. She later worked for Pitney Bowes.
Toni Schmidt said a funeral service is set for Sunday. She expects to have more details later today. Donations can be made to the “Kim Schmidt Memorial Fund” at any Spokane Teachers Credit Union branch.
Top to bottom, left to right, are Jermaine S. Bedford, 22; Kalen J. Bedford, 21; Rashad F. Toussiant, 25; Roderick D. Shanks, 21; Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27; and Tyrone J. Carell, 23. All are wanted on assault charges related to the murder.
UPDATE: All suspects except Stafone Fuentes and Rashad Toussiant have been arrested.
Law enforcement officers were in Spokane County Superior Court today to provide extra security at the arraignment of murder suspect John “Lil Danger” Castro, who is accused of shooting another rapper at a Spokane hotel.
Castro (pictured left) pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, riot, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and two counts of second-degree assault for a Nov. 27 fight that ended with the shooting death of Jose A. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake, at a Spokane hotel. His trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, but that likely will be postponed.
Castro, 27, remains in jail on $1 million bond. Public defender Anna Nordtvedt said a request to reduce his bond is to be heard on Thursday. Castro faces life in prison if convicted because of two previous violent felony convictions that qualify him for the state's three-strikes law.
Eight other men are charged with assault in connection with the case. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of the six pictured above.
Sheriff's deputies and Spokane police provided extra security at Castro's arraignment before Judge Annette Plese, which was attended by Solis's friends and family. No incidents were reported.
Police believe Castro shot Solis after Solis and other men tried to help their friend who was being assaulted.
Castro and the other suspects went to the Quality Inn on East Third Avenue after a rap concert and were kicked out of a party hosted by the Moses Lake men, police say.
One of the men argued with a woman in the hallway, and he and others began assaulting her boyfriend. The woman and a friend ducked into a room and called for help as the men continued to assault her boyfriend and kick the door to the room, according to police. Solis and others arrived from another floor to help, and Solis was shot int he chest, police say.
Surveillance video captured the suspects running to and from the melee.
Detectives are reviewing Castro's work as the rapper “Lil Danger” as they continue to investigate the case.
A Spokane man accused of killing his friend in Riverfront Park after a night of drinking was arraigned today on a second-degree murder charge.
Yukio M. Rideb, 21, (pictured right) pleaded not guilty to killing Romero J. Vivit, III, 21, in a fight early Dec. 17.
Vivit's body was pulled from the Spokane River on Dec. 20.
Rideb and Vivit (pictured left) had been friends since attending North Central High School together.
Rideb entered his plea before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. He remains in jail on $500,000 bond. His public defender is Anna Nordtvedt.
According to police, Rideb told detectives that Vivit needed to be hospitalized but was still breathing when he left him in the park after the drunken assault. He said he was so intoxicated that he didn’t realize who he was assaulting until he saw Vivit's shoes. Read more here.
Rideb’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, but that likely will be postponed.
A man sought on a nationwide warrant in a June beating death of a Spokane man in Missoula, Mont., has turned himself in in Tacoma.
David Sekou Hylton, 39, of Tacoma, surrendered Tuesday night, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.
A coroner's report said Fuentes (pictured left) died of blunt force trauma to the head. He was found outside the Elks Lodge in Missoula during a hip-hop show there.The incident led to a felony warrant being issued for his nephew, Stafone Fuentes, after his unauthorized trip out of the state was publicized because he was arrested at the hospital where his uncle was pronounced dead.
Coincidentally, the concert tour featured rapper John “Lil Danger” Castro, who was arrested for second-degree murder for allegedly shooting another rapper to death at a Spokane hotel Nov. 27.
Stafone Fuentes was at the hotel and involved in the fight that led to the shooting, Spokane police allege. He is wanted on a first-degree assault charge.
A St. Maries, Idaho, man accused of murdering an 18-year-old woman told police he accidentally shot her in the face while checking to see if his gun was unloaded, officials say.
Joseph Duane Herrera, 28, is in jail on $200,000 bond after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder in Benewah County District Court.
He was arrested Sunday for the shooting death of Stefanie Comack.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest of six men charged for their alleged roles in a fatal shooting involving two aspiring rappers at a Spokane hotel.
Pictured above, top to bottom, left to right, are Jermaine S. Bedford, 22; Kalen J. Bedford, 21; Rashad F. Toussiant, 25; Roderick D. Shanks, 21; Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27; and Tyrone J. Carell, 23.
All are wanted for second-degree assault except Fuentes, who is charged with first-degree assault.
The charges stem from a Nov. 27 fight at the Quality Inn, 110 E. Third Ave., that led to the shooting death of Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake.
Aaron A. Maxwell, 23, Anthony L. Fuentes, 29, and Michael J. Charles, 34; already have been arrested. John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, (pictured) was arrested just after the homicide and remains in jail on a second-degree murder charge. Castro faces life in prison if convicted under the state's three-strikes law because of his criminal history.
Police believe Castro shot Solis to death in a wild fight that began when the Spokane group tried to attend a party at the hotel hosted by the Moses Lake group, who were in town for a rap concert at Ichiban Sushi Lounge at which Solis performed.
The Spokane men were kicked out, and Jermaine Bedford insulted a female friend of the Moses Lake men, Jazman Quarles, and challenged her boyfriend to a fight, police say. A wild fight ensued, and Quarles and a friend hid in a room and called their friends to help her boyfriend, who was being assaulted in the hallway. They arrived, including Solis, and the fight continued, ending in the gunshot that killed Solis. Witnesses identified the gunman as Castro.
Hotel surveillance video does not show the shooting but does show the participants running to and from the confrontation, according to court documents prepared by Spokane police major crimes Detective Kip Hollenbeck.
Police believe the Moses Lake men only acted in self defense during the fight.
Fuentes, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, last gave an address in the 300 block of West Shannon Avenue. His criminal history includes convictions for first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, unlawful possession of a firearm and escape. He was jailed briefly last summer after news of his uncle’s murder outside a rap concert in Montana in June revealed to his probation officer that he’d left the state without permission.
Jermaine Bedford, 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds, last gave an address in the 300 block of East Queen Avenue. His criminal history includes convictions for second-degree assault and riot.
Kalen Bedford, 6-foot-4 and 160 pounds, last gave an address in the 1300 block of West Qualchan Drive. His criminal history includes a conviction for delivery of a controlled substance.
Carell, 5-foot-8 and 130 pounds, last gave an address in the 200 block of East Wedgewood Avenue. His criminal history includes conviction for second-degree assault. He was arrested in November after police investigating a 2007 homicide saw marijuana in his apartment.
Shanks, 6-foot-2 and 155 pounds, last gave an address in the 200 block of South Wall Street. His criminal history includes convictions for second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.
Toussiant, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, last gave an address in the 3000 block of North Lacey Street. His criminal history includes convictions for second-degree assault, malicious harassment and bail jumping. A conviction for intimidating a public servant was dismissed upon appeal.
Anyone with information on the current location of any of the six men is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or submit tips online.
Nine men have been charged for their alleged roles in a fatal shooting involving two aspiring rappers at a Spokane hotel.
Spokane police detectives are looking for six men on second-degree assault charges for a Nov. 27 fight that led to the shooting death of Jose J. “Junior” Solis, 21, of Moses Lake.
(Pictured above, top to bottom, left to right) Jermaine S. Bedford, 22; Kalen J. Bedford, 21; Rashad F. Toussiant, 25; Roderick D. Shanks, 21; Stafone N. “Stix” Fuentes, 27; Tyrone J. Carell, 23; are wanted for second-degree assault.
Aaron A. Maxwell, 23, Anthony L. Fuentes, 29, and Michael J. Charles, 34; already have been arrested.
John A. “Lil Danger” Castro, 27, (pictured) was arrested just after the homicide and remains in jail on a second-degree murder charge.
A Spokane man accused of killing his friend in Riverfront Park after a night of drinking told police he was so intoxicated that he didn’t realize who he was assaulting until he saw his shoes, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Yukio M. Rideb, 21, (pictured) told officers Romero J. Vivit, III, needed to be hospitalized but was still breathing when he left him in the park early Saturday after the drunken assault. Rideb will remain in the Spokane County Jail on $500,000 bond after appearing in court today on a second-degree murder charge. Divers pulled Vivit’s body from the Spokane River on Tuesday.
Spokane police search Riverfront Park on Tuesday. Romero Vivit's body was pulled from the river later that day. (Jennifer DeRuwe/Spokane Police Department)
A 21-year-old man arrested after his friend's body was pulled from the Spokane River with what police described as “visible injuries to his body” is expected to appear in court this afternoon.
Yukio M. Rideb (pictured left) was booked into jail Tuesday at 4:42 p.m., hours after Romero J. Vivit III was pulled from the river in Riverfront Park.
Family members found bloody clothes belonging to Vivit Saturday after he was last seen about 3 a.m. following a visit to the Revolver Bar, 227 W. Riverside Ave., according to police.
Rideb and Vivit (pictured right) attended North Central High School together.
It's unclear what led police to identify Rideb as a suspect in Vivit's death, but Vivit is believed to have been assaulted in the park early Saturday.
Park staff told police of cleaning up blood near the Louff Carrousel that day after hearing of the missing person case.
Rideb is on state Department of Corrections probation for a year after pleading guilty in September to third-degree assault and violation of a domestic violence no contact order. He was arrested in August and spent 26 days in jail. He was released after sentencing with credit for time served.
In June, Rideb was sentenced to 29 days in jail for two counts domestic violence malicious mischief, a misdemeanor.
Rideb is scheduled to be appear in Spokane County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. on a second-degree murder charge.
A police dive team searches the Spokane River in Riverfront Park on Tuesday. (Jennifer DeRuwe/Spokane Police Department)
A body believed to be that of a man missing since this weekend was recovered Tuesday in Riverfront Park, and a 21-year-old is facing a murder charge in connection with the death, police said.
Taken into custody was Yukio M. Rideb, who is being held at the county jail on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Romero J. Vivit III, 21.