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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Murder suspect’s jailhouse death a mystery to friends, family

Tristen Jordan, 25, found dead in cell Sunday morning

Tristen Jordan.
Tristen Jordan.

Friends and family say they are baffled by the death of a former Marine and accused killer found dead at the Spokane County Jail last weekend.

Tristen Nebrae Jordan, 25, showed no signs of trauma when jail employees found him unconscious in his cell about 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Experts hope toxicology reports will help determine the cause and manner of his death, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jordan’s lawyer, Chris Phelps, said he met with his client at the jail last week and didn’t suspect anything was wrong. He said he doesn’t want to speculate as to why Jordan died but emphasized the inmate didn’t appear suicidal.

“Anybody facing that situation is gravely concerned about the future and what may happen, so he was particularly affected that way,” Phelps said. But if he had darker thoughts, “he didn’t articulate it to me other than what we would normally expect in a situation.”

A hearing was scheduled this week in which Phelps was to present a report by a psychiatrist who recently examined Jordan. Friends have said Jordan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, but Phelps said he couldn’t discuss the nature of the evaluation or if he planned to present a defense based on mental health issues.

Phelps said the two discussed the murder case last week, and Jordan signed documents and sent them back to the law office in anticipation of upcoming court proceedings. He was upset, but “no more than anyone would be in his situation,” Phelps said.

“It’s very saddening, and it’s also disappointing, particularly, for his family and those who care about him, that he wasn’t able to have this matter resolved in court,” Phelps said.

Jordan, who was on Washington Department of Corrections supervision for a harassment conviction in California, was accused of fatally shooting Samantha Clark Franco, 20, about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 12 on the 800 block of East Augusta Avenue before shooting himself.

Friends described Franco as a “street kid” with a huge heart who had a 9-month-old baby and lived with her mother at the Augusta Avenue home.

Franco’s mother, Cara L. Clark, said she was in bed when she heard a thud and heard Jordan yelling “she’s evil” as he ran from the apartment, according to an affidavit supporting a murder charge against Jordan. Clark called police and said Jordan had been her daughter’s boyfriend on and off for about eight months.

Police found him on the Gonzaga University campus near the McCarthey Athletic Center with a gunshot wound to the head. He was arrested after leading officers on a short foot chase and hospitalized in Seattle for several weeks before returning to Spokane to face a murder charge. A judge dismissed the charge Wednesday at the request of prosecutors because of Jordan’s death.

In an email, Jordan’s friend Angela Gilbert described him as a “kind and loving soul” and said he was innocent until proven guilty.

According to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Jordan’s cellmate said he last saw him moving in his bunk about 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Deputies found him dead when they arrived to serve breakfast about 6:30 a.m. Sheriff’s detectives found nothing suspicious.

Sgt. Dave Reagan said an investigation into Jordan’s death will not be complete until toxicology reports are finished, which may take several weeks.

Phelps said Jordan’s family is anxiously awaiting toxicology reports.

“They’re terribly saddened by this, but at the same time they’re very curious as to what happened – how he perished,” Phelps said.

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