Clara Page was right.
One of the women found dead in southeast Spokane on Friday was her daughter, Laurie Ann Wason.
Page drove from the Tri-Cities on Saturday to stand vigil outside the yellow tape marking the gully where the bodies of two women were discovered.
She told her two surviving daughters that their older sister lay dead on the other side. “It’s her,” she said as detectives combed the site for clues.
On Monday, authorities confirmed Page’s intuition. Detectives used prints lifted from the dead women’s fingers to determine their identities.
The bodies are those of the 31-year-old Wason and 39-year-old Shawn Ann McClenahan, authorities said. They were dumped into the tall grass of an overgrown gravel pit near 14th and Carnahan at least 48 hours before they were found.
Autopsies were performed Monday, but authorities did not release the results. They also withheld further details about the crime scene except to say it appears the two women were the victims of a homicide.
The case is in the hands of a four-detective task force assembled to investigate the deaths of more than a dozen Spokane area women since 1984.
The discovery of Wason and McClenahan’s bodies brings the tally of unsolved murders of women to 17 - seven since August.
The task force is working to determine whether any of the murders are related and possibly the work of a serial killer.
Most of the victims were shot to death, then dumped in out-of-the-way locations. Many worked as prostitutes, had drug habits or both. Wason and McClenahan fit into the latter category.
Like Yolanda Sapp, Nickie Lowe and Kathy Brisbois - whose murders in 1990 remain unsolved - Wason and McClenahan were addicted to heroin.
Family members said Saturday that Wason was the devoted mother of a 12-year-old son and a breeder of Rottweiler dogs until last summer when she slipped back into a heroin habit after six clean years.
She soon began selling herself on the streets of Spokane to get money for her next fix, they said.
Her sister, Darcy Acevedo, last saw Wason on Oct. 30. Wason, clad in a black trench coat, was walking down East Sprague Avenue. The avenue between Cowley and Altamont streets is known to be frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers.
Authorities announced in mid-November that Wason was missing. She wasn’t heard from again.
Efforts to reach McClenahan’s family were unsuccessful Monday.
According to court records, her life, too, was ruined by heroin. She had been in and out of jail and rehabilitation centers over the past several years and was arrested for prostitution in 1993.
On Nov. 6, she pleaded guilty to forgery for passing a stolen check “during a heroin-using binge,” court records state. She was sentenced to 30 days of community service, placed on probation and released.
Nine months before, McClenahan testified against the man who was accused of killing her boyfriend. She told prosecutors that Joseph Andrews yelled a death threat at her boyfriend, Larry Eaves, a few days before Eaves’ body was found shot to death in a car parked in west Spokane.
Andrews pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the shooting earlier this year after two separate juries deadlocked over murder charges.
McClenahan is the second woman associated with the case to show up dead in the past two years. Last June, two boys found the body of Shannon Zielinski near Mount Spokane.
Zielinski, who also had a drug habit that she supported through prostitution, had been shot and her partially clothed body dumped in a wooded area near Holcomb and Mount Spokane Park Drive.
The task force also is investigating her unsolved murder, as well as that of Sherry Palmer, whose body was found about a mile from where Zielinski’s body was found. Palmer, too, had a history of prostitution and had been shot to death.
Women still selling sex in Spokane are on edge and trying to be more careful.
Women working as prostitutes are trying to keep a low profile, staying with regulars and working in pairs, said Lynn Everson, a social worker who runs an HIV-prevention clinic on East Sprague.
The women also have set up drop-off and pick-up sites and often take down the license plates of customers, Everson said.
“There is no safe place for them to go,” she said.
Drug habits and lack of job skills keep most of the women on the street, Everson said.
“The women who are still out there are there because they have no choice,” she said. “They may make money on a daily basis, but they don’t get to keep very much of it. Very few women are able to work clean and sober. The women are really trapped.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 color photos
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writers Robin Rivers and Virginia de Leon contributed to this report.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.