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Police search for murder victim’s cell phone

Police are searching for the cell phone of a man found murdered in the Dishman Hills Natural Area late last month.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives hope information from AT & T on the time and location of calls made since Douglas J. Klages’ murder will help them solidify their case against Roland E. Benton, who was arrested for first-degree murder last week.

Benton, who’s in jail on $500,000 bond, is to be arraigned May 18.

Klages used his cell phone to call his parents the day before he died.

“At the time the body was discovered, the victim’s pants pockets had been turned inside out, as if someone had gone through them,” according to a search warrant filed today in Superior Court. “(This detective) believes that it is possible that the cell phone, as well as other items, may have been taken from the victim at the time of his murder.”

A Rosauers receipt found with Klages helped police identify Benton, who had left the store with Klages just hours before the murder.

Benton also reportedly told a friend on the day of the killing that he had done something that would be on “the national news.”

Past coverage:

Police: Suspect admitted Dishman killing to friend

Homicide suspect left jail just before murder

Homicide victim hoped for fresh start

Suspect was jailed 2 days before murder

A Spokane transient was arrested Wednesday for the murder of a man found beaten to death in the Dishman Hills Natural Area on Friday.

Roland E. Benton, 34, was booked into Spokane County Jail about noon Wednesday – one week after he was released on a domestic violence charge.

Jail records show it’s his third booking this month: He also spent two days behind bars on a warrant for not complying with court orders for a 2006 misdemeanor hit-and-run.

Benton is the only suspect in the murder of Douglas J. Klages, 46, said Sgt. Dave Reagan. No other arrests are expected.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Homicide victim hoped for fresh start

Homicide victim was beaten to death

When Douglas Klages last talked to his parents, he was planning for the future. The 46-year-old Spokane native struggled with alcoholism but wanted to clean up. He told his parents so in a phone call last Thursday.

“He said, ‘I know you’ll be happy: I’m lining myself up for a treatment program,’” said his father, Don Klages. “It was a terrible addiction.”

The next day, Don and Karen Klages learned of their son’s murder. Hikers found his body in a small cave inside the Dishman Hills Natural Area Friday afternoon, where Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives believe he’d been camping.

An autopsy showed he died from blunt-force trauma to his head, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Now, as detectives search for his killer, Doug Klages’ friends and family are struggling to understand how a man with no enemies and a generous heart could end up beaten to death. Klages’ death is the first homicide investigated by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office this year.

“This community is grieving,” said Dean Whisler, day room manager at the Union Gospel Mission, where Klages stayed on and off for several years. “Everyone loved him.”

Read the rest of my story here.

Federal trial for killer’s boyfriend delayed

A federal weapons trial for a man Spokane police believe helped prostitute Shellye L. Stark murder her husband, then concoct a sordid tale of spousal abuse to try to dupe investigators, has been postponed.

Brian L. Moore, 43, is now scheduled to go to trial on June 15 in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. A pre-trial conference is set for June 7.

Moore was previously scheduled to go to trial May 11 on two federal charges of possession of an unregistered firearm in connection with a rifle and firearm silencer on a pistol seized from a warehouse where he was staying in Orange County, Calif.

Spokane police raided that building in April 2009 when they arrested Moore on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale Robert Stark.

Shellye Stark is serving 50 years in prison after a jury convicted her of first-degree murder in March 2009.

Spokane County prosecutors moved to dismiss murder charges against Moore last year after a judge threw out key evidence from a private investigator hired by Moore and Stark.

The dismissal came just before Moore’s public defenders were going to ask a judge to permanently dismiss the charges because of lack of evidence. This way, prosecutors still can recharge Moore with murder, which they say they plan to do.

Also charged in relation to the case is Shellye Stark’s father, Curtis A. Johnson. Johnson is set to go to trial June 14 on one count of first-degree identity theft after police say he cashed two checks with signatures forged to look like Dale Stark’s.

Read past coverage of the Stark/Moore case here.

Man gets 15 years for baby girl’s murder

A judge sentenced an admitted baby killer to 15 years in prison today but denied the slayer’s mother a final request: a hug before deputies hauled him back to jail.

Jereme J. Bassett, 24, last month pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 7-month-old Nevaeh Alana Miller, who was the daughter of Bassett’s girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Wilcox.

Bassett also pleaded guilty to third-degree assault that stemmed from him choking Wilcox’s 8-year-old son after he learned Nevaeh was brain dead. Superior Court Judge Annette Plese sentenced Bassett to 15 years in prison, followed a plea agreement between Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald and Assistant Public Defender Kevin Griffin.

However, Bassett will get credit for more than two years he has served in jail since he harmed Nevaeh on March 20, 2008, in the room he and Wilcox shared at the West Wynn Motel on Sunset Boulevard.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

April 13, 2010: Girl’s killer faces 12 to 20 years in prison

March 27, 2008: Girls organs given to 3 babies

March 26, 2008: Troubles started early for man accused in baby’s death

Gunman pleads guilty in Halloween murder

Halloween gunfire that killed a man trying to break up a fight in downtown Spokane will send the triggerman to prison for at least 24 years in a plea deal approved recently in Spokane County Superior Court.

 Jonathan H. Espinoza, 26, faces up to 32 years in prison for a shooting outside The Blvd Tavern that killed Joshua D. Ridgely, 22, (left) and injured two of Ridgely’s friends, Ryan R. Jackson and Michelle M. Wilcox. The bottom of the standard sentencing range is 24 years.

Espinoza opened fire on a crowd outside the bar shortly after midnight on Nov. 1, 2008, after grabbing a gun from a friend, Matthew R. Jones.

Jones, 26, told police he fired one shot into the air before Espinoza grabbed the weapon and said “This is how you do it.”

Jones pleaded guilty last summer to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Espinoza pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault. He remains in jail awaiting sentencing.

The shooting came after a fight broke out in a crowded parking lot outside the bar, 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. An associate of Jones and Espinoza was involved, and Espinoza instructed Jones to get a gun from the car they arrived in before he grabbed it from him and fired multiple rounds, according to court documents.

Ridgely, a 2004 University High School graduate who installed windows for his brother’s company, was hit in the chest and died in the parking lot. Bullets hit Jackson and Wilcox and narrowly missed at least three others, including Summer Jackson, who was Ridgely’s girlfriend and Jackson’s sister, police said.

The plea deal approved by Judge Michael Price last week dismissed three counts of attempted murder in connection with the stray bullets.

Espinoza and Jones were arrested Nov. 3 after a friend who previously told detectives he didn’t know the shooters broke down in an interrogation room, police said.

Espinoza already was a convicted felon prohibited from possessing firearms. His record includes a conviction for felony possession of a controlled substance.

Past coverage:

June 11, 2009: Man pleads guilty in killing

Nov. 3, 2008: Shooting victim always wore smile

Man killed in front of kids; suspect at large

Okanogan County detectives are still looking for a gunman they say killed a father in front of his two children on Friday.

Javier Ramirez-Cardenas, 30, of Okanogan, (left) is accused of fatally shooting Jose Antonio Padilla-Campos, 34, in Campos’ home at Johnny Appleseed Orchards off B&O Road, west of Okanogan. The shooting was reported at 9:15 p.m.

Investigators say Ramirez-Cardenas was let in, then shot Campos as he sat in a chair at a computer.

Campos’ 7-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son witnessed the killing. Both are staying with their mother, who lived at the home but was away at the time of the shooting, said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.

Detectives found Ramirez-Cardenas’ 2005 Nissan Altima in an orchard behind his home but haven’t found the suspect.

“We’re chasing a bunch of leads today, but nothing solid yet,” Rogers said.

Investigators don’t know what led to the shooting.

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Rogers said. “We’re just not sure what his motive was.”

Anyone with information on Ramirez-Cardenas’ location is asked to call (509) 422-7232.

Crenshaw double-murder trial delayed, again

The trial of young man accused of a grisly double murder has been postponed.

  Jury selection in the trial Justin W. Crenshaw, 22, is now set to begin on June 28 - more than two years after investigators say he stabbed Sarah A. Clark and Tanner E. Pehl to death, then tried torching the home to cover the crime.

Trial was scheduled for May 3, but Crenshaw’s lawyer, Chris Bugbee, requested an extension because a report on tests Crenshaw underwent in Western Washignton isn’t ready. Prosecutors also need time to have the report reviewed by an expert.

Crenshaw is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted.

The original aggravating factor charges that the murders were “part of a common scheme or plan.” Prosecutors recently amended the charge to include a second aggravating factor - deliberate cruelty.

Pehl and Clark were found dead in Pehl’s home on Elm Street in north Spokane on Feb. 28, 2008. Crenshaw was arrested later that day.

Past coverage:

Nov. 6, 2009: Judge rules on evidence in Crenshaw trial.

Oct. 16, 2009: Motion to suppress filed in Elm Street homicides

Sept. 9, 2009: Crenshaw double-murder trial delayed.

Sept. 4, 2009: Detectives just now examining Crenshaw’s cell phone 

July 9, 2008: Murder defendant will get new attorney

March 5, 2008: Murder suspect trying to better life, friend says

March 1, 2008: Friends remember slain Mead High senior

2 convicted in murder of pregnant woman

Okanogan County jurors late Thursday convicted two Spokane residents in the 2009 ice-pick slaying of a pregnant woman near Tonasket.

Tansy Fay-Arwen Mathis, 30, and David Eugene Richards, 34, were convicted in the killing of Michelle Kitterman, 25, who was found dead along a driveway adjacent to Stalder Road in Tonasket on March 1, 2009. Kitterman was 11 weeks pregnant.

Mathis was found guilty of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter of an unborn child, first-degree kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Richards was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. The jury reached its verdict about 11 p.m., said Sheriff Frank Rogers. Aggravated first-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison.

Awaiting trial for murder is Lacey K. Hirst-Pavek, 33, of Tonasket, who is accused of offering $500 to have Kitterman killed because Kitterman was having an affair with her husband.

A key witness was Brent L. Phillips, 39, of Spokane, who was involved in the killing and pleaded guilty last month in the murder.

Mathis, formerly of Tonasket, is believed to have met with Hirst-Pavek several times in arranging to have Kitterman killed.

Past coverage: April 16: 2 on trial in Okanogan ice-pick slaying

Teen in fatal stabbing pleads to assault

A teen arrested in a fatal stabbing will spend a few more months in jail after pleading guilty today to second-degree assault. 

Christopher E. Hooper, 19, (left) was arrested after the Jan. 16 stabbing death of Shannon Cochran, 22. Cochran is pictured above with his mother, Tracey.

Hooper was sentenced today to 12 months in prison with credit for time served in jail.

Police say Hooper was with Tylor T. Buttolph, 19, and Michael L. Summa, 20, and Summa fatally stabbed Cochran near Garland and Helena as he defended a friend in a fight over a drug debt. Hooper handed Summa the knife, prosecutors say. Hooper said he was high on methamphetamine at the time. Read more from the sentencing here.

Buttolph (left) and Summa (right) are charged with second-degree murder and remain in jail.

Buttolph’s father, Daniel R. Wood, was convicted last year of first-degree rending criminal assistance for helping the defendants. Buttolph’s mother, Tanya Buttolph, also is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Her trial is scheduled for May. 

After the stabbing, police say the men called Wood, who picked them up in a car. As the group climbed into Wood’s vehicle, Buttolph asked Summa “why he stabbed Shannon Cochran so many times,” according to court documents.

Past coverage:

Oct. 15, 2009: Warrant issued for teen in murder case

Jan. 26, 2009: Final suspects in homicide arrested

Jan. 21, 2009: Stabbing victim died standing up for friend

Feds: Murder plot uncovered in pot case

A Las Vegas developer acquitted by a federal jury in a North Idaho marijuana distribution case remains jailed without bail, now accused of conspiring to kill the prosecution’s key witnesses, including a Post Falls couple who testified against him.

  Kelly J. Polatis, (left) who worked with the company still fighting Kootenai County’s rejection of the proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development, waived extradition Wednesday to Utah, where he’s been charged in U.S. District Court with using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire.

He’s also suspected of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor in an investigation his lawyer says was triggered by a nanny whose son was a government informant.

 On Thursday, Chataeu marketing director Melody Jones said Polatis is long removed from the project.

“When we all saw what kind of person he was we got rid of him,” Jones said.

Polatis, 40, was arrested with Karrie Hatridge (right), Charlie Hatridge (left) and Ryan C. Jackson in November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, who operated American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum. 

A fourth defendant, Ryan C. Jackson, pleaded guilty last summer to misprision of a felony and is on three years probation.

Jackson (right), whose brother is a Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy, tended to the marijuana for two weeks “receiving neither money nor money in return,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer. “His main offense was one of not reporting the criminal activity to the authorities,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer last summer. 

Polatis was charged in the murder plot through a sealed complaint filed on Friday, the same day a federal jury acquitted him of marijuana charges that carried a five-year minimum prison term.

His defense lawyer, noted Las Vegas litigator Gabriel Grasso, is suspicious over the timing of the new charges.

“That might tell you something: They don’t like to lose,” said Grasso, whose past clients have included reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson. “It’s a humbling thing to be faced with the might of the federal government and actually come out on top. Defense attorneys call it ‘walking on the moon.’”

Read the rest of my story: Developer accused of murder plot

Jury convicts career burglar of murder

A jury today convicted a career burglar of killing an 80-year-old man in a botched burglary in September 2008.

David K. Brewczynski, 44, (right, and above in 1997) was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and first-degree theft of a firearm for the beating death of Kenneth Cross at Cross’ Boone Avenue home.

A week after the murder, police found Cross’ identification and other personal items in a storage unit Brewczynski rented in southeast Spokane County. Forensic experts say a bloody shoe print in Cross’ house could match a shoe found in Brewczynski’s home.

Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in his closing argument today that investigators believe they have shown “beyond any doubt” that Brewczynski struck Cross some 24 times in the head, a similar number of blows to his torso and at least two shots to the head.

Brewczynski “beat down, killed and shot Kenneth Cross. It is beyond question,” Garvin said.

But Assistant Public Defender Derek Reid tried to make the case that Spokane County sheriff’s detectives, who are contracted to work as police in Spokane Valley, simply followed the facts that fit their theory and failed to test other evidence that may have supported charging other suspects.

Read more here.

Brewczynski was arrested in 1997 in what detectives described as a community policing dragnet. (The picture up top is from that arrest.) He was suspected in more than three dozen burglaries. He served seven years in prison but was arrested for burglary just months after his release. (Read the story from 2004 here.)

Past coverage:

Trial starts in death of 80-year-old man

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Teen gets 11 years in murder over $20

Matthew T. Shope told police everything. He led them to the victim’s body, described her murder in detail and, ultimately, gave detectives a solid case against her killer.

But it’s what Shope did - and didn’t do - before his arrest that earned him more than a decade in prison under a sentence imposed Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

“He was not the instigator of the incident,” said Deputy Prosecutor John Love. “However, he did not attempt to stop the incident.”

Shope pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the Oct. 6, 2008, strangulation death of 28-year-old Jennifer L. Siria and was sentenced to 134 months in prison.

His accomplice, Michael A. Quinones, 29, was sentenced to 25 years in prison March 25 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

“I should have done something,” Shope said today through tears. “I was a coward in the situation and didn’t take action to stop it and I feel terrible for the family.”

Siria’s mother, Patricia, said Shope is an example of “what every parent fears for their child, that their bad choices will take them to a place they’ll never be able to overcome.”

“Why didn’t he run out and pound on doors and call for help?” she said. “I hope he wishes now that he had.”

Quinones and Shope gave Siria $20 to let them stay in her apartment at 537 E. Hawthorne Road but demanded the money back when they decided the leave, which led to Siria’s murder.

Shope feared he would be Quinones’s next victim, defense lawyer Mark Hannibal said. Shope helped Quinones clean the apartment, later telling police “it’s amazing how well you can clean when you’re threatened with your life,” Hannibal said.

A Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy picked Shope and Quinones up near the scene and released Quinones not knowing of the murder. But Shope refused to get out of the car and told the deputy he had an arrest warrant. Not finding one, the deputy drove Shope to Daybreak rehab, where the boy told employees “he had been involved in something that could send him to prison for a long time,” according to court documents.

Had it not been for Shope, “the killer would have gotten away with his crime,” Hannibal said. Hannibal asked Moreno to impose an exceptional low sentence of 114 months (the high-end sentence for first-degree manslaughter), but the judge declined.

“I just simply can’t justify it based on the loss of a life in this case,” she said. “I know that you feel badly. I know you are very remorseful for what you did and didn’t do….(but) the devastation that you caused with your codefendant cannot be ignored.”

Past coverage:

Drifter sent to prison for brutal slaying

Second suspect charged in murder

Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim

2 on trial in Okanogan Co. ice-pick slaying

Two Spokane residents charged in the ice-pick slaying of a pregnant woman near Tonasket last year face life in prison if convicted by an Okanogan County jury this month.

Tansy Fae-Arwen Mathis, 30 (right), and David Eugene Richards, 34 (left), are accused of killing 25-year-old Michelle L. Kitterman and her unborn baby in an attack authorities say was motivated by an affair Kitterman was having with the husband of Lacey K. Hirst-Pavek, 33, of Tonasket.

Richards and Mathis are charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence if convicted. Kitterman was 11 weeks pregnant when she was found dead on March 1 along a driveway adjacent to Stalder Road, near Tonasket.

Investigators say Hirst-Pavek offered $500 for the killing, then rented a car that detectives said was used in the attack. Hirst-Pavek (right) is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder for Kitterman’s slaying and first-degree manslaughter for the death Kitterman’s unborn child.

A key witness against Mathis and Richards is 39-year-old Brent L. “Hollywood” Phillips, of Spokane, who pleaded guilty to Kitterman’s murder March 29.

A plea deal calls for him to get 26 years in prison when he’s sentenced May 11, said Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan.

Other witnesses include Spokane police investigators who assisted Okanogan County in the investigation because “several of the people (Okanagan investigators) needed to speak with were in Spokane,” Sloan said.

Phillips (left) and Richards lived in Spokane at the time of the murder.

Mathis, formerly of Tonasket, is believed to have met with Hirst-Pavek several times before reaching an agreement to “take care of” Kitterman for $500 and persuading Richards and Phillips to get involved, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said in previously published reports.

Richards is believed to have provided the ice pick, Rogers said.

Lawyer Steve Graham, who’s defending Mathis, said the murder was the “sole work” of Phillips.

Past coverage:

Affair may have triggered ice-pick slaying

Fourth suspect arrested in pregnant woman’s death

Suspect in ice-pick playing surrenders

Man pleads guilty to ‘08 murder of baby

A Spokane man who murdered a 7-month-old girl, then assaulted her older brother, faces 12 to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced next month. 

Jereme J. Bassett, 24, has been in Spokane County Jail since March 20, 2008, the day his now ex-girlfriend brought her daughter, Nevaeh Alana Miller, to Sacred Heart Medical Center with head trauma so severe doctors said recovery was hopeless.

Bassett recently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and third-degree assault of a child and will be sentenced May 3.

“I wish he would have burned in Hell instead, but it sounds like this is the best deal we’re going to get,” said Nevaeh’s grandmother, Deborah Parks. “It’ll never replace what he took from us.”

The assault conviction stems from Bassett choking Nevaeh’s 8-year-old half-brother and slamming him into a bed after the children’s mother, Jennifer Wilcox, rushed Nevaeh to the hospital. The boy had commented to Bassett that Nevaeh “was brain dead,” according to court documents.

Bassett was unemployed and regularly watched Nevaeh and the boy while Wilcox worked.

Wilcox returned the day of Bassett’s arrest to find her baby unresponsive in the room she and Bassett shared at the West Wynn Motel on Sunset Boulevard.

Bassett had called her earlier to say Nevaeh had fallen and hit her head but seemed OK. He told police he tried to revive the child, then smoked marijuana with two friends who were visiting.

Nevaeh was pronounced dead on March 22, 2008. Her organs were donated to three babies. Parks said she stays in contact with the parents of the baby who received Nevaeh’s heart.

“That’s made a big difference,” she said.

Bassett has past convictions for possession of a controlled substance, residential burglary, and attempted first-degree theft. His criminal history calls for a standard sentencing range of 144 to 244 months.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese approved Bassett’s plea deal on Thursday, the same day Spokane police announced the arrest of 18-year-old Tyler L. Jamison on accusations that he assaulted his 2-month-old daughter, SkyeLynn.

Past coverage:

Girls organs given to 3 babies

Troubles started early for man accused in baby’s death

Trial starts in murder of 80-year-old man

A jury will soon decide whether a career burglar murdered an elderly Spokane Valley man in 2008.

David K. Brewczynski, 44, is accused of killing 80-year-old Kenneth Cross in a botched burglary at Cross’ Boone Avenue home on Sept. 20, 2008.

A week after the murder, police found Cross’ identification and other personal items in a storage unit Brewczynski rented in southeast Spokane County.

Forensic experts say a bloody shoe print in Cross’ house could match a shoe found in Brewczynski’s home, Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin said in his opening statement Wednesday.

Garvin said evidence shows Brewczynski is the killer. But public defender Derek Reid pointed to conflicting statements made by Cross’ housekeeper, Teresa M. Nelson, in an effort to persuade jurors “the government hasn’t done their job.”

Investigators who interviewed Nelson the day of the murder “described her as nervous, fidgety,” Reid said. “At one point, without an explanation, she says ‘I didn’t kill him. I didn’t have anything to do with it,’ ” Reid said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Elderly man’s accused killer on trial this week

Jury selection is expected to begin this week in the trial of a career burglar accused of killing an 80-year-old Spokane Valley man. 

David K. Brewczynski, 44, is charged with first-degree murder and 23 other counts related to four residential burglaries committed around the time Kenneth Cross was found beaten and shot to death in his Boone Avenue home on Sept. 20, 2008. Cross had lived at the home since 1968.

Expected to testify is Cross’s housekeeper, Teresa M. Nelson. Nelson pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in February 2009 for stealing a ring from Cross’s girlfriend’s home. Nelson first told police she met Brewczynski through a dating phone line but has since denied knowing him.

The trial in Spokane County Superior Court is scheduled to last eight days. Judge Annette Plese is presiding.

Brewczynski was arrested in 1997 in what detectives described as a community policing dragnet. (The picture up top is from that arrest.) He was suspected in more than three dozen burglaries. He served seven years in prison but was arrested for burglary just months after his release. (Read the story from 2004 here.)

Past coverage:

Burglar’s storage unit yields dead man’s ID

Murder victim may have been targeted

Accused killer pleads not guilty

Calif. murder trial for Spokane man delayed

The second murder trial for a former Spokane photographer accused of killing his wife in California more than 25 years ago will be postponed, officials said today.

William G. Mordick, 64, was arrested in Spokane on Feb. 11, 2008, and has been in custody in Orange County, Calif., since. He’s charged with first-degree murder for the death of his wife, Katherine Mordick, who was found dead with her throat slashed in the couple’s Anaheim Hills home on Jan. 22, 1983.

A jury couldn’t reach a verdict after his first trial last fall, according to the Orange County Register. Prosecutors argued Mordick killed his wife “in order to keep custody of his daughters, ages 2 and 4 at the time, and to avoid paying the $650 monthly child support payments,” according to an article you can read here.

Mordick’s second trial is scheduled to begin April 14, but an assistant to defense lawyer Jack Earley said today that it will be postponed to allow more time to prepare.

Mordick owned and operated Photography by Gregory in Spokane beginning in the early 1990s.

Previous coverage:

Spokane photographer held in wife’s 1983 slaying

Husband guilty in pregnant teacher’s killing

(Joel Mills/The Lewiston Tribune)

Sarah Parks’ family badly wants to know how she died.

With that in mind, they are supporting a plea agreement that will send her husband Silas Parks to prison for a maximum of 40 years, Latah County Prosecutor William Thompson Jr. said.

“I think at this point, in addition to wanting to be assured that an appropriate punishment is handed down, they also want to know exactly what happened,” Thompson said.

Silas Parks pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of first-degree arson in connection with the death last year of his pregnant wife, Sarah Parks, a third-grade teacher at Moscow Charter School.

Silas Parks, 26, of Kendrick, Idaho, was initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder and the arson count.

But a plea deal negotiated with the Latah County Prosecutor’s Office reduced the murder charges. It also stipulated that as part of a presentence investigation, Silas Parks will describe in detail how he killed Sarah Parks and then set fire to their Moscow duplex.

Read the rest of the Lewiston Tribune story here.

Drifter gets 25 years for ‘08 strangulation

A panhandler who murdered a woman in a dispute over $20 was sentenced today to 25 years in prison.  

Michael A. Quinones, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the Oct. 6, 2008, strangulation death of 28-year-old Jennifer L. Siria.

“This was not a planned thing,” Quinones said. “Frankly, I don’t remember half of it. I’m not a brutal savage. This just got out of hand that night. I’m sorry it occurred.”

Another defendant, 19-year-old Matthew T. Shope, is expected to be sentenced for the murder soon.

Read Tom Clouse’s story here.

Past coverage:

Panhandler sought in woman’s killing

Second suspect charged in murder

Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim/a>

Panhandler to plead guilty in woman’s death

A man accused of strangling a woman to death over $20 is set to plead guilty and be sentenced today in Spokane County Superior Court.

Michael A. Quinones, 29, is charged with first-degree murder for the Oct. 6, 2008, death of Jennifer Lee Siria, 28. Quinones and a teen were panhandling in north Spokane when Siria let them stay at her apartment at 537 E. Hawthorne Road.

Quinones was arrested at a Montana homeless shelter on Oct. 10. His alleged accomplice, Matthew T. Shope, now 19, was already in jail on a first-degree murder charge. His trial is set for April 12.

A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy picked up Shope and Quinones while they were walking in the area of Siria’s apartment at 537 E. Hawthorne Ave. about 3 a.m. Oct. 6, 2008,shortly after authorities believe they killed Siria. The deputy drove the two to Garland Avenue and Division Street, as Quinones had requested, and let Quinones go.

But Shope refused to exit the car and said he’d run away from Daybreak, a teen drug rehabilitation center, and had a warrant in Kootenai County. After dispatchers failed to find an arrest warrant, Palmer drove the boy to Daybreak, where Shope told a caseworker he’d told Palmer about the warrant because Quinones had threatened to kill him and he feared him, according to court records.

As Shope began to wash his bloody clothes, he told his caseworker “he had been involved in something that could send him to prison for a long time,” according to court documents. “Matthew stated that he did not do the act he was talking about but that he did nothing to stop it and had been going through the victim’s belongings when the act was committed.”

Quinones’ sentencing is set for 2:30 p.m. before Judge Maryann Moreno.

Past coverage:

Panhandler sought in woman’s killing

Second suspect charged in murder

Police: Accused killer wrote rape suspect’s alleged victim/

38-year fugitive found running chapel

By MATT GOURAS (AP)

HELENA, Mont. — A hitchhiker originally sentenced to be executed for the 1951 killing of a Montana man who picked him up during a blizzard has been found running a wedding chapel under an assumed name in Arizona 38 years after he skipped out on parole.

Frank Dryman was found after the victim’s grandson hired an investigator who tracked the fugitive to his Arizona City notary and chapel business, where he was known as Victor Houston.

Now 78, Dryman is awaiting extradition proceedings today, a day after his arrest by the Pinal County sheriff’s office.

Dryman initially received a hanging sentence after a quick trial in 1955. His case became the focus of a battle over the death penalty and frontier justice, and he received a new sentence of life in prison with the help of the Montana Supreme Court.

In 1969, after just 15 years in prison, he was paroled. The Montana Department of Corrections said that today, the soonest a person convicted of murder could gain parole is 30 years. Dryman disappeared three years later. No Montana offender had been missing longer. “He just went into thin air in 1972,” said Clem Pellett, the victim’s grandson. “I don’t think that my grandfather’s death was well represented; it just got lost in all the ideologic conversation of the time.”

Pellett, a surgeon in Bellevue, Wash., pursued the case after first learning details last year while digging through old newspaper clippings in storage. He said the issue was never discussed in the family. Pellett said he was driven by a sense of curiosity, and does not feel like he needs any revenge since he never knew his grandfather Clarence, and knew little about the murder.

Newspaper clippings from the time say that Clarence Pellett stopped to pick up Frank Dryman in 1951 during a spring blizzard near Shelby, a small town in northern Montana. Pellett, who ran a small cafe, was shot seven times in the back as he tried to run away, according to the accounts.

The private investigator hired by the grandson used scores of documents the family dug up from old parole records, the Montana Historical Society and Internet searches to trace Dryman to the Cactus Rose Wedding Chapel. Pellett told Montana corrections officials of the discovery. Officials said Dryman acknowledged his identity to officers.

A call to the wedding chapel Wednesday was not answered.

The Montana Department of Corrections said that Dryman will be sent back to the state prison. He will face a parole revocation hearing within the next few months — and possible resumption of his life in prison sentence.

Pellett said he has learned his family has a long, coincidental history with Dryman. Records show that Pellett’s great aunt once testified in support of Dryman when the then 16-year-old was accused of robbing a liquor store.

“She came to his defense so that he was not labeled as a delinquent,” Pellett said.

Pellett, who only decided to hire a private investigator on a whim during a dinner party conversation, said he is not driven to see Dryman punished.

“The legal system will handle it,” the grandson said. “Whatever they decide is fine with me. I mean he is 78 years old.”

But Pellet, 56, said would like to finish writing the family history of the long trial.

“I want to see if he wants to talk to me,” Pellett said. “I just want to get information. There are holes in the story he could really add to.”

Another arrested in gang-related homicide

Another man has been arrested in connection with an unsolved gang-related shooting in January.

Justin A. Battle, 29, is accused of possessing the stolen Ruger mini rifle police think was used to kill 38-year-old John S. Williams in an alley behind 5405 N. Crestline on Jan. 17. He was arrested after detectives searched his apartment at 1839 E. Marshall Ave. last week on suspicion that he was selling marijuana.

Police found crack cocaine and marijuana, along with a bullet and a firearm part that belonged to the mini rifle, which was stolen in a burglary in Chattaroy on Jan. 4, according to court documents. Battle is accused of helping a defendant in that burglary sell the mini rifle.

Battle, who was convicted of second-degree burglary in 1998, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court March 18 on charges of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and trafficking in stolen property. He’s out on $10,000 bond.

Three other men, Eric Burton, Jr., Antonio Cook, Jr., and Elexander R. Burgess have already been charged with possessing the mini rifle, which police found in a car rented by Burton. Burton and other reputed gang members were attending a birthday party at the Crestline apartment complex when Williams was killed.

Williams’ mother, Cindy Williams, said she believes the killer was after her grandson, John Williams’ 21-year-old son.

Past coverage:

‘Not a simple investigation’

Police find gun used in slaying

3 arrested in murder of Grant Co. teen

Two men and a juvenile have been charged with the murder of a 17-year-old in Grant County this month.

Luis A. Mejia Nunez, 20 (right); Martin Ochoa Ramos, 41 (left); and a 15-year-old boy are accused of a drive-by shooting that killed Carlos D. Leyva on March 7.

Leyva and two friends were walking in the 1700 block of Road T.5 SW, between the small towns of Mattawa and Beverly, when men inside a passing car flashed hand signs.

The car drove by again, and someone inside fired shots. One killed Leyva, another injured one of his friends in the ankle.

Nunez, of Mattawa, and the 15-year-old, also from Mattawa, were arrested Wednesday. Ramos, of Sunnyside, was arrested Thursday on a felony warrant for being an accomplice to first-degree murder.

Suicidal gunman was sued for ‘05 shooting

 The man who shot his wife’s ex-husband before killing himself had been sued for a shooting incident in 2005.

Chad L. Moore, 35, (left) was serving as his own lawyer in a lawsuit filed by 70-year-old Orville Robert Boyd, who accused him of negligence and recklessness in a March 20, 2005, incident near Athol.

Moore and a friend, Ryan W. Beamer, were shooting Glock pistols on a private road about one mile north of Chilco Road when Boyd approached on an ATV with a gunshot to his right chest.

Moore called 911, and Beamer ran up the road to meet medics. Moore told a Kootenai County Sheriff’s deputy he’d been target shooting there since he was a small child, according to a report.  The shooting was ruled accidental, and Moore was never charged with a crime. The police report listed his employer as a Coeur d’Alene lumber company. He told police he’s worked there for 15 years.

Boyd sued Moore and Beamer in 2007. Moore began serving as his own lawyer in September “due to lack of funds,” according to a letter he wrote in the Kootenai County District Court file.

A five-day jury trial is scheduled for August.

Moore was found dead last week after an overnight manhunt. Before he killed himself, Moore shot and killed Ryan William Taylor, 28, the ex-husband of his pregnant wife.

Taylor had confronted Moore at his Hayden apartment March 9 after hearing from his ex that Moore hit her.

A memorial fundraiser was held for Taylor Saturday at The Grail nightclub in Huetter. His funeral took place earlier today.

Past coverage:

Family: Jealousy, abuse led to murder

Family: Jealousy, abuse led to murder

When Ryan William Taylor showed up at a Hayden apartment Tuesday afternoon, he was there to confront the husband of his ex-wife – a man he believed had been abusing her.

But Taylor, 28, (pictured above with his daughters) never left the property alive. The man he confronted fired four rounds at Taylor, family members say, one striking him in the back of the head.

A search team from Kootenai and Spokane counties found the suspected gunman, Chad Lee Moore, (right) dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday morning east of Hayden Lake.

After an overnight manhunt, searchers found Moore’s pickup truck, which had been burned, before spotting his body on a logging road about one mile north of Triangle 7 Road and Hayden Creek Road.

Moore, 35, had a handgun and a military-style rifle with several ammo clips, said Maj. Dan Mattos of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

“One conclusion drawn is that perhaps he was lying in wait for police, but we’ll never know because he took his own life,” Mattos said. Investigators believe he set fire to the truck (right) before walking down the road and shooting himself.

Moore’s wife, Amber Kern, previously was married to Taylor. Nine months pregnant with Moore’s baby, Kern was taken to a hospital Wednesday but was not expected to give birth immediately, said Taylor’s mother, Barbara Taylor.

Mattos said Moore and Ryan Taylor had ongoing problems.

Barbara Taylor said Kern had called her Tuesday and said Moore had hit her after asking if she’d been talking to Ryan Taylor on the phone.

Taylor was out on a birthday shopping trip with his girlfriend and daughter, Jordan, who turns 12 Friday.

The three stopped by Moore and Kern’s apartment at 10102 N. Government Way, where Taylor found Moore armed with a loaded handgun, Barbara Taylor said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Homicide case ‘not a simple investigation’

Witnesses to Spokane’s only homicide this year share a common theme, police say: All were there, but all say they know nothing about the early morning shooting that left a man dead in an alley.

Six weeks after John S. “Q” Williams, 38, was killed outside a birthday celebration attended by Atlantic Drive Crips gang members, four men have been charged with drug or gun crimes connected to the shooting, but police haven’t identified the killer.

“This is not a simple investigation,” said Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department.

Those arrested include Eric Burton Jr., (right) and Antonio E. Cook, Jr. (left).

A similar gang-related homicide in 2007 ended in an unusual plea deal that gave the alleged shooter credit for about a year served in the county jail and a conviction for manslaughter after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict. (Read about here.)

Details in newly filed court documents reveal similar problems for investigators trying to solve the city’s latest gang-related homicide: uncooperative witnesses who have criminal backgrounds, gang loyalties, a disdain for police and a fear of retaliation.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Police find gun used in slaying

Grant Co. teen killed in drive-by shooting

A Grant County teenager was killed Sunday in a drive-by shooting that also injured another boy in the ankle.

Carlos D. Leyva, 17, of Beverly, was shot to death about 6:18 p.m. on a road about 5 miles north of Mattawa. Investigators haven’t identified his killer but say the shooting appears to be connected to a gold or tan Nissan-type vehicle.

An unknown number of people inside that vehicle argued with Leyva and two other boys before the shooting in the 1700 block of Road T.5 SW, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.

The three boys were walking between Mattawa and Beverly when the shooting occurred.
The second victim was treated and released at Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake. The third boy was not injured.

Neither witness is cooperating with investigators, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators aren’t sure if the shooting is part of the increase in gang violence the county has seen over the last few years, said Undersheriff John Turley.

Read about a recent homicide in Grant County, a triple murder in December: Man told police he killed for revenge

Witness in next month’s murder trial jailed

A key witness in an upcoming murder trial is in jail after investigators say she broke contact with them.

Colleen Sue Janson, 49, was booked just after midnight Friday on a $100,000 material witness warrant out of Spokane County Superior Court, and a misdemeanor warrant for third-degree driving while license suspended.

Crime Stoppers had offered a reward for information leading to her capture on Thursday.

Janson is expected to testify next month at the trial of Terry L. Conner, a 53-year-old Spokane man accused of stabbing another man to death in an apartment at 2614 E. Third Ave on Dec. 7, 2008.

Aaron D. Lyon, 30, also is charged with the murder of Timothy G. Eby, 50. His trial is set for April. Both men are jailed on $1 million bonds.

Police think the men stabbed Eby to death in a drug-related robbery that netted $7.25, according to court documents.

Janson had been staying with Lyon and Conner at the Bel Air motel, 1303 E. Sprague, at the time of the crime.

Investigators think she may have broken contact with them “because of an ongoing drug and alcohol problem,” according to a news release.

Court documents show Janson is not believed to have been present when Eby was killed, but she told police she had heard Lyon and Conner planning the murder, and that Conner bragged about having killed other people.

Janson told police she’d asked Lyon and Conner where they were going before the murder, and “Conner said they were going to rob the drug dealer who burned Lyon for $40,” according to court documents.

Janson fell asleep and was awakened when the men returned and Conner was yelling at Lyon, saying Eby should have had $2,000, according to court documents.

When Janson asked what was wrong, Conner “grabbed her by the sweatshirt and said that he just ‘stabbed the (expletive deleted) 15 times for $7.25, what do you think of that you dumb (expletive deleted)’?”

Read a previous story: Slaying may have been over $7.25

‘Person of interest’ named in ‘84 murder

An elderly woman beaten to death her in home. Her apartment ransacked and several silver coins missing, but few clues left behind to identify her killer.

The 1984 murder of 87-year-old Ruby M. Miller stumped Spokane police detectives and frightened neighbors near her East Riverside home, where she known as “The Cat Lady” - a woman who had little but felt safe.

Now, more than 25 years later, detectives have identified a 74-year-old woman they consider a “person of interest” in Miller’s murder.

Spokane retiree Neomi Jensen has been questioned but not charged, said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.

“We want to make sure the case is rock solid, but at this point our biggest lead in the case in Jensen,” DeRuwe said. But, she said, “we don’t feel she’s a threat to the community.”

Read the rest of my story here, with links to past coverage.