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Wednesday, April 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Murder charges in beating death could take time

By Thomas Clouse and Meghann M. Cuniff The Spokesman-Review

Spokane County prosecutors aren’t expected to immediately upgrade the charges against an 18-year-old man charged in the beating death of a 65-year-old retired principal who was trying to break up an underage drinking party. Treven Lewis, 18, currently faces the charge of first-degree assault.

Frank J. Motta suffered head injuries and died Thursday night after he tried to clear out a party thown last Saturday by a neighbor’s teenage son.

Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said today that detectives continue to wait for more information from the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office before sending a new charging recommendation to prosecutors.

“Detectives … have further investigation to complete,” Chamberlin said in a news release. “An update will be sent out if and when there is any change in the status of the case.”

Witnesses told deputies that Lewis pushed Motta to the ground and punched him in the head after Motta nudged Lewis’ girlfriend while telling her and other guests to leave.

Before Motta died at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, friends and co-workers described him as a man always ready to help others.

“What has happened is unconscionable, and in this really difficult hour we want to stand united for Frank and family and let them know we care and we are there for him,” Sunil Wadhwani, acting associate medical center director, said during a press conference at the veterans hospital Thursday.

Motta “is one of the staff that serves as a role model to others,” Wadhwani said.

“He just wants to do the right thing by the veteran. Whatever it takes,” Wadhwani said. “He has compassion for others, and we don’t understand why things of this nature occur to good people.”

Motta was a 65-year-old Air Force veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. He later worked as a high school teacher, principal and coach.

Motta began in 2009 volunteering at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was hired four months ago as a patient advocate four months ago. His wife, Virginia, and daughter, Jami, also volunteer there.

The assault occurred Saturday night at his neighbor’s home in the 11800 block of North Bedivere Drive in north Spokane County. Two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies had responded to the home in response to a 911 call.

Deputies said Motta told them he’d talked to the homeowner and knew the teen throwing the party. He had the code to the garage and went inside to tell the 100 to 150 people at the house to leave.

Deputies stood outside the home and learned of the attack from exiting witnesses. Sheriff’s officials say they weren’t authorized to enter the home.

Spokane County officials on Thursday declined to release the 911 call from the homeowner that led deputies to the address, citing the ongoing assault investigation.

Wadhwani said Motta always did his best to help others, “and it seems that is exactly what he has done.”

He said staff members at the VA hospital have many unanswered questions.

“All folks at this organization are interested in making sure justice is served,” he said. “People just want to know why is Frank in the position he is in at this hour when all he did was he was serving as a good Samaritan, and he’s a good man.”

Motta taught and coached football at Othello High School when Charles Regalado, now a Spokane Valley dentist, graduated from there in 1979.

The two stayed in touch, and when Motta moved back to the area after retiring from education in California a couple years ago, he made a dental appointment with Regalado.

“He’s just a fantastic guy. I love him so much,” Regalado said.

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