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Suspect Seen Near Site Where Knife Was Found Police Encountered Spillman Two Hours After Double Murders

Aviva L. Brandt Associated Press

A black pickup truck seen near a house where a mother and her daughter were killed led police to the man accused of their murders, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Former Spokane resident Jack Owen Spillman III was being held without bail in the Chelan-Douglas County Regional Jail. He is expected to be charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder when formal charges are presented at an arraignment Tuesday.

Conviction on those charges carries a sentence of life in prison without parole or death. Douglas County Prosecutor Steven Clem declined to say if he would seek the death penalty.

Spillman is accused of the murders of car saleswoman Rita Huffman, 48, and her daughter, Amanda “Mandy” Huffman, 15, in their East Wenatchee home April 12.

During a 15-minute bail hearing via closed-circuit television from the jail Thursday, Spillman told Douglas County District Court Judge Judith McCauley that he understood the charges and penalties he faces if convicted. McCauley said an attorney will be appointed to represent him.

Tall and lanky with a mustache and goatee, Spillman, 25, said he was unemployed and had no assets but a 1978 Chevrolet pickup.

Authorities said the truck led them to Spillman, who was kept under 24-hour surveillance for nearly a week after the slayings.

A pickup matching the description of Spillman’s was seen by a neighbor in a parking lot near the Huffman’s home about 11:30 p.m. April 12. It was later stopped by an East Wenatchee police officer in the parking lot of a VFW hall where a knife believed to be the murder weapon later would be found.

Chelan County Coroner Gerald Rappe, who conducted the autopsies, concluded Rita Huffman died of multiple stab wounds to the upper chest and neck, Clem said.

Her daughter died of a blow with a blunt instrument to left side of her head and had wounds indicating she tried to defend herself from her attacker, he said.

“Based upon the manner in which Mrs. Huffman and her daughter were murdered, it’s doubtful robbery was a motive,” said Clem, who refused to say whether the women were sexually assaulted.

Investigators concluded Rita Huffman died about 11:30 p.m. April 12, the time frozen on a shattered watch she was wearing, Clem said.

A witness later reported seeing a black Chevrolet pickup truck in the parking lot of a school behind the Huffman’s house at about 11:30 p.m., Clem told McCauley.

Two hours later, at about 1:30 a.m., April 13, East Wenatchee police officer Dan Reierson stopped to investigate a suspicious man parked alone in a black pickup truck in a VFW hall parking lot, Clem said.

The man got out of the truck with his hands up, something Reierson considered unusual, but not incriminating, Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche said Thursday.

A woman who shared an apartment told police Spillman told her he was going out for a drive when he left about 11 p.m. April 12 and did not return until about 2 a.m.

The bodies were discovered by a relative who had gone to the Huffman home to check on them about 8 a.m.

“He became a ‘person of interest’ because of the incident where he was checked by East Wenatchee police,” LaRoche told the Wenatchee World. “The time frame was right. We have a witness who described his vehicle” in the Huffman’s neighborhood.

Police began 24-hour surveillance of Spillman that day, but held off making an arrest until laboratory results were returned Wednesday, LaRoche said.

A 12-inch knife, with traces of what appeared to be the victims’ blood, was found in a garbage can outside the VFW hall Friday night, Clem said. The knife appeared to match one missing from a threepiece set inside the Huffmans’ home, he said.

Spillman was arrested Wednesday in a rented apartment just a few blocks away from the VFW hall.

His arrest set off investigations by police in counties where he has an extensive criminal record in recent years.

An Okanogan County sheriff’s detective was sent to Douglas County to investigate a possible link to the disappearance last September of 9-year-old Penny Lynn Davis, Okanogan County Sheriff Dan Weed said Thursday.

Spillman was questioned last September after the girl disappeared from rural Tonasket, but there was not enough physical evidence to consider him a suspect, Weed said.

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