It’s been 23 years since the bodies of three Spokane prostitutes were found shot to death near the Spokane River. But on Thursday, the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office called the cold cases solved.
Detectives recommended three charges of first-degree murder against 61-year-old Donna Perry to the Spokane County prosecuting attorney’s office Thursday, according to a news release.
Yolanda Sapp, 26, was found dead Feb. 22, 1990, in the 4100 block of East Upriver Drive. A month later, 34-year-old Nickie Lowe’s body was discovered in the 3200 block of East South Riverton underneath the Greene Street Bridge. Kathleen Brisbois, 38, was found that May on the south side of the Spokane River near Trent Avenue and Pines Road in the Spokane Valley.
All three were found naked and shot to death with a .22-caliber gun. Though there were no other distinguishing marks on the victims, law enforcement always believed the three killings were somehow connected, according to previous reports.
That connection became clear when Perry, previously known as Douglas Perry, was arrested on federal firearms charges in March 2012, according to court documents. Though the arrest was unrelated to the 1990 deaths, Spokane police Detective Mark Burbridge and sheriff’s Detective James Dresback used DNA evidence from the investigation to link Perry to the murder of Brisbois.
Federal investigators also discovered women’s panties inside a closet at Perry’s 2006 E. Empire Ave. home. Investigators believed the panties were kept as trophies, according to documents.
The investigation then led detectives to a Woodland, Wash., man in December, according to court documents. The man owned a vehicle previously owned by Perry. Detectives seized the vehicle with a search warrant and found a .22-caliber ammunition cartridge in the car, the same type of ammo that killed the three women.
At the time of the slayings, investigators believed them to be among the prostitutes murdered by serial killer Robert L. Yates. He was convicted of killing 13 women in Spokane County and two women in Pierce County in the late 1990s. Yates remains on death row.
Perry, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2000, is in a federal prison in Texas for the weapons charges. She will be arrested and returned to Spokane after charges have officially been filed by the prosecutor’s office, police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said.