On April 23, 2013, Mark Broadwater stopped calling his mother.
Cynthia Broadwater knew something bad had happened to her 32-year-old son, who was involved in drugs, hung out with “dangerous people,” yet telephoned her every day.
After five days, she reported him missing.
It took about 13 months, but on May 16, investigators found his body. An informant led them to Kootenai County, where they recovered Broadwater’s body stuffed inside a brown City of Spokane garbage bin that had been rolled down a steep pitch along a U.S. Forest Service road near Fernan Lake.
Three suspects were jailed Wednesday and charged Thursday with beating Broadwater to death for stealing drugs and cash.
Peter E. O’Brien, 44, and Jeffery B. Sankey, 47, are accused of killing Broadwater at the urging of Judy L. Diamond, 40.
Police did not begin to investigate the missing person report until June 2013. Major Crimes Lt. Mark Griffiths said the department receives 2,000 reports of missing people every year and Broadwater was an adult.
“We don’t assign all those immediately,” he said.
An investigation began when police suspected foul play, he said.
Broadwater’s acquaintances and a former girlfriend told police that Broadwater was known to steal from people. He was twice accused of petty theft in Spokane Municipal Court, but was not convicted, according to court records. One man, however, also told police that Broadwater had “kind eyes” and was only a “small-time thief,” according to court documents.
The big break in the case came at the end of January when detectives interviewed a Spokane County Jail inmate who told police that “JD” and “Hooch” put duct tape over Broadwater’s mouth and beat him to death.
Then in March, a confidential informant told police that Broadwater had been beaten with brass knuckles in an apartment at 621 S. Adams St. At the time of Broadwater’s disappearance, Sankey and Diamond lived together in the unit, according to documents.
When detectives knocked on the apartment door March 18, no one answered. They noticed what appeared to be a blood smear on the door molding. On May 9, the new tenant in the apartment let police inside to search for evidence. They found what they believed to be blood on the living room and bedroom ceilings.
A former neighbor of the couple identified “Hooch” as O’Brien. The neighbor said he saw Broadwater go inside Sankey’s apartment the day he disappeared. Shortly after that, Sankey asked the neighbor if he could borrow a pickup truck. The neighbor declined, according to documents.
The former neighbor told police he was later told that Sankey and O’Brien beat Broadwater while Diamond encouraged them.
After police arrested O’Brien on May 15, he told police that Sankey believed Broadwater had stolen money and drugs from him. According to documents, O’Brien told police Sankey had hit and kicked Broadwater, and both Sankey and Diamond had pointed weapons at Broadwater.
O’Brien told police Sankey asked him for help getting rid of Broadwater’s body. The body was put into the trash bin, loaded into a white GMC van and driven to the forested dump site.
O’Brien led police to the area.
Court documents describe other people who had knowledge of the crime and may have helped dispose of the body. That part of the investigation is ongoing, Griffiths said.
“These are the primary people we’re interested in,” he said of the three arrested on charges of murder and held in jail on $2 million bonds. “There were other people involved.”
Sankey has an extensive criminal history that includes multiple convictions for possession of stolen property and drugs. He also has convictions for burglarizing homes, obstructing police and unlawful possession of a firearm.
O’Brien has eight felony convictions for drugs, possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm. Diamond has been convicted twice for theft.