Angelique Vornheder once found a video of her brother posted in a Facebook group called “Tweakers of Spokane.” He was rapping and singing to himself, as he often did.
People making fun of him, as they often did.
“I messaged the person and begged him to take it down. Because that year, he’d almost died five times,” Vornheder said. “I mean, this is how people look at the people downtown.”
Anthony Vornheder, 40, was stabbed to death October 2, and investigators have little to go on to find his killer. About three weeks after Anthony Vornheder’s death, police had no new information to release, said Spokane Police Department spokesman Sgt. John O’Brien.
Angelique Vornheder, Anthony’s younger sister by 18 months, said his death could’ve been prevented, but facilities for someone with his needs just don’t seem to exist.
Angelique Vornheder, a certified medical assistant at Providence Health and Services, tried to get him in a long-term care facility. She’d pleaded with his case managers to keep him on his psychiatric hold at Fairfax Hospital in Everett, just so he could stay hydrated and fed, she said.
At 2, her brother was left unattended and fell from a second-story balcony, injuring his head, Angelique Vornheder said.
“So he’s always been a little slower at learning things,” she said. “He tried school and he was always bullied, so he always had to fight his way out of things. And the learning disability. But he always tried to stay really positive. He was a good big brother.”
After they moved to Spokane, the young teens ran away, eventually living on the streets for a while. In addition to learning disabilities, Anthony Vornheder had a bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and “couldn’t do right from wrong,” she said.
He struggled in his efforts to get a GED. Still, he managed to hold jobs in remodeling and in customer assistance for many years. He had “two beautiful daughters,” she said, though they haven’t been close for a few years.
But the death of one of his grandparents sent him into a spiral several years ago. From then on, he lived in cycles of chaos – on the streets, in and out of the hospital and jail, beaten up for his clothes and shoes, and then, always finding his way back to his sister’s house.
Once he showed up in January wearing nothing but boxers and boots. Another time he came to her home as his lung filled with fluid.
“He just looked at me and said ‘I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have any friends,’” Angelique Vornheder said.
She took him to a hospital. She always kept clothes for him and left a blanket on the back porch.
He’d stay for a week to get cleaned up. She’d buy him clothes, and he’d lose them to other homeless men after a beating. After so many beatings, he was also battling memory loss.
“There’s not very much help for men,” she said. “If you had a child and you’re a mother and you’re mentally ill, you’ll get the state, funding, housing. It’s not the same for men.”
She said her brother, in his schizophrenic paranoia, was often too suspicious to stay in homeless shelters, but never consented to staying in a longer-term health care facility either. As a family member, she couldn’t commit him without his consent.
Sometimes police would find him dehydrated and talking to himself. Sometimes he stole things. Sometimes police would bring him to jail on minor charges, like trespassing, for his own safety, Angelique Vornheder said.
She called the police several times when he refused to go to the hospital and once when she found him in the road trying to “tickle cars.”
When he was in jail, “I never slept better. Because then I didn’t have to worry about him. Somebody was watching over him,” she said. “He would have his medication, three meals a day. Jail is a horrible place to be but it beats the alternative of what eventually did end up happening.”
His daughters had hope for him, Angelique Vornheder said. He had hope for himself in his final weeks. His new case manager at Frontier Behavioral Health was compassionate and inspiring.
“Good and bad, (Anthony) was always there for me. He was a protector,” Anthony Vornheder’s friend Scott Crafton wrote on his online memorial.
Lailani Noble, who wrote that she knew Anthony Vornheder when he was 11 years old in Germany, described his spirit as “gentle, kind and loving.”
To Angelique Vornheder, he was someone who loved kids, games, fishing and the outdoors. But often his community didn’t see him as a person.
Angelique Vornheder has some ideas about his killers. The day before he died, he told his sister he’d talked to police and someone had punched him in the face.
She wonders if people suspected him of ratting them out and killed him for it.
Anthony Vornheder was stabbed six times in the chest, Angelique learned from police. He stumbled for at least 20 minutes asking for help downtown. He died on the way to the hospital before police arrived on scene.
In a voicemail left about 40 minutes before he died, he told his sister, “I just want you guys to know I’ve been super happy.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Nov. 5, 2020 to correct the date of Anthony Vornheder’s killing, the workplace of Angelique Vornheder and the location where he was put on a psychiatric hold.
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