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Court documents: Two people involved in the fatal shooting of man found Dec. 2 in Airway Heights

Dec. 21, 2021 Updated Wed., Dec. 22, 2021 at 9:21 p.m.

Spokane deputies are shown earlier this month at the scene where a body was found in Airway Heights. Two suspects have been arrested.   (Sydney Brown / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane deputies are shown earlier this month at the scene where a body was found in Airway Heights. Two suspects have been arrested.  (Sydney Brown / The Spokesman-Review)

A second arrest has been made in connection with the fatal shooting of Jeffrey T. Hayes, whose body was found in a vacant field on Dec. 2 in Airway Heights.

Ezekiel Mentell, 23, and Shawn Cottingham, 32, are accused of shooting Hayes only minutes after he got into their car, according to court documents filed Monday in Spokane County District Court.

At 9:59 a.m. Dec. 2, Northern Quest Casino’s security footage showed Hayes waiting at the front of the casino before a white Kia Optima pulled into frame, according to the affidavit.

A man in a hooded sweatshirt was seen getting out of the front passenger seat and opening the backseat door for Hayes. The car then sped away.

Minutes later, Hayes was found dead in a vacant 10-acre lot off North Hayford Road and West Balmer Avenue.

Mentell told detectives he saw Cottingham shoot Hayes with a “snub-nose” revolver, according to the court documents. Mentell also reportedly said that when Cottingham fired his pistol, he also fired a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. Mentell said he did not know he shot his gun until Cottingham told him that he too shot Hayes, according to the documents.

Witnesses who had been driving behind a white car called police at 10:10 a.m. to report they saw the two occupants dispose of a body in the field before continuing north.

About 20 minutes later, an employee working on West Sunset Highway called police to say a man who seemed to be holding a pistol stole his 1990 Mazda Protégé. The Mazda was found on North Spotted Road around 3 p.m. that day, when detectives got a call from someone who noticed an abandoned car on her property.

While executing a search warrant on the Mazda, police found among the items a black wallet with identification and bank cards in Hayes’ name, as well as two cell phones.

They also collected a hooded sweatshirt, which they sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for DNA testing. The DNA appeared to be a match to Mentell, according to court documents.

Simultaneously, police were working to identify the white Kia seen in the casino’s security footage the morning of Hayes’ death.

Investigators matched the license plate to a car reported stolen by an acquaintance of Cottingham, according to what that person told police in the affidavit. She told police that on Nov. 25 she gave Cottingham permission to drive the Kia, but he never returned it and blocked her from contacting him.

At the scene on Hayford Road, investigators also found that a spent shell casing matched a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol that had been reported stolen around Nov. 27 by another acquaintance of Cottingham, who said he took her gun and holster on Nov. 27, according to court documents.

Investigators also accessed the social media and call logs of the phones that had been collected from the stolen Mazda.

Records showed nine calls between 7:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m. on Dec. 2 between Hayes and a number matching the one detectives got from the witnesses who said Cottingham stole their property.

Facebook messages obtained by police showed Hayes’ account messaging another about meeting a person named “Shawn.”

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said Hayes died from a gunshot wound to the torso. In an email to The Spokesman-Review, the office clarified that Hayes had been shot in the neck but the bullet traveled and caused fatal injuries in his torso.

The white Kia was found Dec. 5 abandoned on Rimrock and Bonnie Drive, according to court documents. Inside, police found 9 mm bullet cartridges, according to court documents.

Police arrested Mentell on Friday, and he was booked into Spokane County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder with a $1 million bond. That charge has since been amended to second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty to the charge Monday in Spokane County District Court.

Cottingham was booked into Spokane County Jail on Monday on suspicion of second-degree murder and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the Spokane County Inmate Roster. His bond is set at $1 million. Cottingham pleaded not guilty to those two charges Tuesday in Spokane County District Court.

S-R reporter Garrett Cabeza contributed to this report.

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