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Assault, killing link probed

Suspect in trail attack lives in apartments where McGill did

People gather outside the apartment complex at 1800 E. South Riverton Ave. where Avondre Graham, 17, lives. (Colin Mulvany)
People gather outside the apartment complex at 1800 E. South Riverton Ave. where Avondre Graham, 17, lives. (Colin Mulvany)

A bizarre mallet attack along the Centennial Trail might help Spokane police crack a homicide case that’s gone unsolved since May.

A teenager arrested Thursday in what appears to be a stranger-on-stranger assault and robbery near Mission Park may be connected to the slaying of 55-year-old Sharlotte McGill, police confirmed Friday.

The teen, identified in court documents as 17-year-old Avondre C. Graham, resembles the description of the knife-wielding killer who stabbed McGill in a seemingly random attack along a river trail near her home four months ago, a case that struck fear into many in the community. Thursday’s incident took place less than a mile from the attack on McGill.

Authorities are also looking into a possible connection because of the random and violent nature of Thursday’s attack and because the teen lives in the same nearby apartment complex that McGill did.

McGill was walking her dog on a path along the Spokane River on May 3 when an attacker jumped out of the bushes and stabbed her in the upper body several times. Before she died, McGill described her attacker as a black male in his 30s with a “bad eye.”

In the Thursday incident, a 47-year-old woman walking along the trail near Mission Park was beaten with a mallet about 4:35 p.m. by an assailant who fled into the Spokane River. Police quickly apprehended Graham, who matched the description of the park attacker, near the 1200 block of North Madelia Street on the other side of the river.

Graham, who police say stole the woman’s cellphone, was booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault.

McGill’s daughter, Billie McKinney, who had come to her mother’s aid as she lay dying, welcomed the new development.

“The women of this community are grateful to the man that chased down and caught the assailant,” McKinney said in a statement. “My prayers go out to the victim and her loved ones.”

The victim in that attack suffered serious injuries including facial swelling, bruising over several parts of her body and blunt force trauma to the head.

Prosecutors want to charge Graham as an adult in Superior Court instead of juvenile court.

Thursday’s arrest wasn’t Graham’s first brush with the law. Documents show he was arrested Feb. 14 and charged with harassment in juvenile court for threatening to kill his mother. His mother, Stephanie Miramontes, declined to comment when reached by telephone Friday, but reflected on her son’s arrest on her Facebook page:

“I am just trying to get some help right now please lord watch over my son for I know he feels alone but he needs to know the family is right here behind him praying and hoping it will all work out we just have to leave it up to God he knows best,” Miramontes wrote in capital letters. “We love you baby and mommy promises that I will be here for you all the way.”

A teenager who said he knew Graham described him Friday as “kind of weird” and said that while Graham didn’t seem mean-spirited, he sometimes would snap and get into fights. He said Graham attended Bancroft School, an alternative school in northwest Spokane.

Police believe there are other people who have useful information about the McGill homicide, and they’re encouraging them to come forward.

A reward has been offered for any information leading to the arrest of the killer.

Detectives, who have been tracking down hundreds of leads since McGill’s murder, are hopeful this arrest will help solve McGill’s slaying, Jennifer DeRuwe, a police spokeswoman, said Friday.

Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner contributed to this report.
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