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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Homicide suspect left jail 2 days before murder

Douglas Klages’ daughters  hold  recent photos of them  with their dad, who was found dead Friday. At left is Erika Klages, 19, and at right is 14-year-old Racheal Rydell-Klages. (Colin Mulvany)
Douglas Klages’ daughters hold recent photos of them with their dad, who was found dead Friday. At left is Erika Klages, 19, and at right is 14-year-old Racheal Rydell-Klages. (Colin Mulvany)

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 in a month: he also spent two days behind bars on a warrant for not complying with court orders for a 2006 hit-and-run misdemeanor.

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

“Words just can’t explain how it makes us feel,” Klages’ 19-year-old daughter, Erika, said of the arrest. “We’re just hoping that this is the guy.”

Detectives retracing Klages’ final hours found surveillance video of Klages leaving Rosauers, 10618 E. Sprague Ave., with Benton about 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

Hikers found Klages’ badly beaten body in a small cave at Camp Caro Community Park, south of Sprague Avenue, in the Dishman Hills Natural Area at 2:30 p.m., Reagan said Wednesday. Previous reports from the Sheriff’s Office that the body was found about 4 p.m. were incorrect.

Detectives interviewed Benton at the House of Charity, 32 W. Pacific Ave., Tuesday night and collected pieces of clothing for forensic testing. Benton went to the Public Safety Building Wednesday and was arrested after another interview, Reagan said.

Witness interviews helped detectives develop probable cause for the arrest.

Reagan declined to discuss a potential motive.

Benton is expected to appear in Superior Court this afternoon on one count of first-degree murder.

He does not appear to have felony convictions in Washington state but has misdemeanors dating back to 2006, including the hit-and-run case and a 2005 eviction case in Douglas County, according to court records.

He was arrested April 27 on suspicion of city assault and malicious mischief for an alleged incident with a woman on the 1900 block of West Gardner Avenue, then released April 28. On April 17, he was arrested on a warrant for the 2006 hit-and-run case, then released on April 19.

Benton listed an address on East 32nd Avenue in court papers last week and in a 2006 case, but a man at the home said Wednesday he didn’t know Benton.

Klages, a Spokane native and father of two known for his cooking skills, had been in and out of shelters in the weeks before his murder. He showed up at Truth Ministries men’s shelter extremely drunk the night before his death, employees said, but left after arguing with another guest.

Klages’ parents, Don and Karen Klages, said he battled alcoholism most of his life but wanted to clean up.

He was well known at Union Gospel Mission, where a manager said he’d inquired about staying there the week of his death but was temporarily turned away because he was intoxicated.

His family called the suspect’s arrest “a big relief.”

“It’s just nice to hear that this man is off the streets,” Erika Klages said.

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