The man who returned 27 stolen guns to the Kettle Falls police chief earlier this month appears to be the same man who met with the chief’s girlfriend last spring, while the chief was trying to investigate the matter himself.
That’s according to a detective’s report, obtained this week by The Spokesman-Review, which ties up several loose ends and raises new questions about a nine-month investigation that resulted in prison time for the chief’s now-former girlfriend.
The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office said last week that a man had come forward with the guns on Jan. 14 after learning from a Spokesman-Review article that they were stolen. The guns were then returned to Kettle Falls police Chief Chris Courchene.
The man, whose name was not disclosed last week, said he had obtained the guns as collateral after the chief’s girlfriend, Alayna R. Smith, approached him and asked for a loan, claiming her aunt was sick and needed money.
The latest report prepared by sheriff’s Detective Bill Bitton identifies that man as David “Steve” Schmid, who owns a tree-cutting business in Colville.
According to the report, Schmid told the detective that Smith had asked him for the loan in February 2018, and he had given her $7,000, accepting 17 guns as collateral. She had given another 10 guns to one of Schmid’s employees, Matt Taylor, in exchange for an unspecified amount, the report states.
“Alayna would meet Steve’s (sic) at his job site so Steve would have witnesses of the exchange,” the report states. “Steve kept a record of what guns he received and the loan amount on each one. The exchanges/loans ended April 11, 2018.”
Courchene, meanwhile, has said he didn’t discover his guns were missing from his safe until April 6, and he didn’t report it to the sheriff’s office until April 13. In a phone call this week, Courchene said he had not checked inside the safe before April 6.
At some point, Smith sent a text message to Schmid, saying someone named Chris needed his guns back, according to the report. Schmid understood that Chris was Smith’s boyfriend or husband, but he “did not know Chris’s last name or how to contact him,” the report states.
Schmid told Smith he would need some money back in exchange for the guns, but she wouldn’t say how much money she had. The two met, and she took a picture of the guns in the back of his vehicle, the report states.
Smith, however, did not attempt to buy back the guns. “Alayna said she was going to check with the bank,” the report states. “Steve waited at the bank for two hours and Alayna never returned.”
That encounter coincides with one previously described in court records. Courchene told the sheriff’s office that Smith had met with an unnamed man in his 40s or 50s, and he had given her a photo of the guns in the back of an SUV. Courchene also said he had given Smith two payments totaling $1,250, which she was supposed to pass along to the unnamed man in exchange for the guns.
In Courchene’s recounting, Smith claimed the unnamed man worried he was being set up during those meetings and then disappeared, having returned only one pistol and the keys to the safe.
In previous interviews with The Spokesman-Review, Courchene said he’d had a hunch about the identity of the man Smith was meeting with, but he declined to give a name. In a phone call Thursday, Courchene said that hunch had been wrong. He said he had never met Schmid before last week, when Schmid returned the guns.
Courchene said he believed that Schmid had been a friend of Smith’s father. Schmid declined to comment Thursday. Detective Bitton did not respond to two messages seeking comment this week.
Smith was arrested May 8 at a cabin in Northport, which she was renting with a credit card she had stolen from Courchene. She pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to three counts of theft, four counts of trafficking in stolen property, two counts of drug possession and 13 counts of identity theft. Prosecutors say her plea deal prevents them from charging her in connection with the stolen guns.
It’s unclear what she did with Schmid’s $7,000 and Courchene’s $1,250.
One of Courchene’s guns apparently remains unaccounted for, as 29 were initially reported stolen and he retrieved only one in April.
Said Courchene, “It may have been a miscount.”
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