Makayla Young’s favorite people were her family. She was the first to volunteer to play with her niece, tell a joke to brighten her siblings’ day or help out her parents with anything they needed.
The last few years of her life were rough – she lost a baby boy late in her pregnancy and struggled to find a career path that suited her. During those struggles, she drew support from her family, moving back in with her parents, Michael and Christy Young, and spending as much time as she could with her sister Emily and niece McKinlee, who also lived at the Young family home.
Last February, Michael Young received a devastating phone call.
Makayla’s body had been found at the Roadway Inn at 20 W. Houston Ave. on Feb. 28. The killer nearly decapitated her, according to court documents.
Anthony D. Fuerte, 27, and Lionel White, 32, were arrested and charged in the killing.
A violent year
Makayla Young was one of 21 homicide victims in the city of Spokane in 2020, a threefold increase from 2019 when the city counted seven killings, according to data provided by the Spokane Police Department.
Domestic violence was a common theme with at least eight homicides involving people close to each other. Another theme was drug use – at least six killings in 2020 involved the use or sale of drugs. At least two victims were homeless and another two homicides involved adolescent Swavii gang members.
One of Makayla’s friends, Erica Bennett, told KHQ that Makayla and Fuerte had been dating for a few weeks before she was killed. But Makayla’s parents said they had never heard of either of the men charged with killing their daughter.
The Young family has always been very close-knit, with five children, Brittany, Andrew, Makayla, Emily and Conner, each about two years apart. Michael Young’s family in the area has grown to 70 people, and Christy’s family is also a large one, they said.
“As a kid, Makayla has always just been the life of the family,” Christy Young said. “She has always been just such a joy … she loved to dance and she was always crazy. She always made her sisters and brothers laugh.”
The family would spend as much time as they could in the summer at their Priest Lake cabin, where Makayla would put on dance shows for the extended family. She was so outgoing that she would walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation, always leaving a smile on the face of the person she was chatting with, Michael said.
In recent years, Makayla worked with her sister Emily at a local hotel, volunteered at Christ Kitchen and helped Emily raise her daughter McKinlee, 7.
“When she was old enough, they would all get their snow stuff on like they were kids and go off and sled,” Michael Young said, through tears. “They would take McKinlee out – kind of like a ritual they had when they were kids. They would take her out and show her that ritual.”
When she was learning to talk, McKinlee couldn’t pronounce “Makayla,” so she began calling her “La La” and the nickname stuck. Over the last few months, Emily has sold “Justice for La La” shirts with the proceeds going to Christ Kitchen.
With such a tight-knit family, there has been a major hole left by the loss of Makayla. Her dad said he has been shocked by how much support their family has received.
“We have such a foundation of support and love,” Michael Young said.
The Young family has decided to keep their distance from their daughter’s case, only receiving updates from the detective, who Christy said has been very supportive.
“We’re just putting our faith in the process at this point,” Michael Young said. “You just got to hope that they just put these people away for the rest of their lives that did these things, and that’s my hope is that nobody would ever have to go through what we’ve gone through again.”
The Young family is just a portion of the hundreds of people impacted by homicides in Spokane last year.
By far, the most frequent cause of death among homicide victims in 2020 was a gunshot wound or wounds, with 12 of 21 homicides committed with a gun. Three victims were attacked with a blade, two were beaten, one was strangled and one died by neglect after she’d fallen. Another two victims’ causes of death have not been made public.
Victims were, in general, older than their killers. The average age among the 21 victims was 37, eight years older than the average age of suspected killers.
Suspects and victims were almost all male. Four women were killed and two are charged in the killings, including one suspect charged with manslaughter in an accidental shooting.
While data can provide information on the type of person that was killed or those who are suspected of committing these crimes, it fails to convey the impact of the loss of human lives, like Makayla’s.
“We’ve lived here in Spokane our entire lives and I grew up in the ’70s and this is stuff you just didn’t hear about,” Michael Young said. “And now we’re here in this era and it’s just mind boggling that the amount of murders … I don’t understand how people are just throwing away people like they’re not even human.”
Here are the people killed last year in the city of Spokane:
Michael B. Hermann, 60, was beaten to death on Jan. 20. His son, Michael B. Hermann, 27, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after he called his sister crying and screaming to tell her he had hit and knocked out their father, according to court documents. When police arrived at the home where the father and son lived at 1421 E. Carlisle Ave., they found the son hesitant to come outside and the father lying on the living room floor with head trauma. The sister told police her brother had been mentally unstable and moved in with their father in the last six months after his divorce. The son pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in September and was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison.
Ibtihal Darraji, 29, was found strangled inside a burning car on Jan. 30. She was an Iraqi immigrant who moved to Spokane with her husband at the time, Yasir A. Darraji, 30. The couple divorced about four years before she was murdered. They had two children together. Yasir and Ibtihal had continued issues after the divorce. Police were called on Jan. 9 when Ibtihal, along with one of her friends, confronted Yasir because his friend allegedly spread rumors that Ibtihal was pregnant out of wedlock, something he thought would reflect poorly on Yasir even after their divorce. Yasir was arrested on suspicion of committing first-degree murder shortly after Ibtihal’s body was discovered. He remains in Spokane County Jail while awaiting his trial.
Christian G. Salazar, 21, was shot in the head on Feb. 3 in a McDonald’s parking lot in northeast Spokane over a missing cellphone, according to court documents. Witnesses told police that at Crave Bar, Salazar accepted drinks from a group of men including Christian J. Robinson, 27. One of two female witnesses told police she stole one of those men’s phones. The men used a tracking app to follow the witnesses to McDonald’s, where Salazar and the women had gone after the bar. Robinson allegedly shot Salazar, who died before reaching the hospital, according to court documents. Robinson remains in Spokane County Jail where he awaits trial for second-degree murder.
Juan Campos, 31, was found dead in a basement freezer of a home at 1644 E. Rockwell Ave, after a witness who was asked to help dispose of Campos’ body called police. Melissa Lee Ann Martin, 36, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Martin told police that she and Campos, her roommate’s boyfriend, were doing drugs when she passed out and woke up to Campos raping her, according to court documents. Later that day, Martin went to Campos’ room to get heroin and he groped her again. Martin told police that’s when she shot him in the back of the head, according to court documents. Brian Riley, 34, was home at the time of the shooting and Martin told police he helped her clean up the scene and hide the body, according to court documents. Martin later told police she had lied and Riley had used her gun to shoot Campos. Riley was arrested a few days after Martin, after another shooting on the 11700 block of East Seventh Avenue that left one victim in critical condition. Both Martin and Riley are in Spokane County Jail awaiting their trials.
Young, 24, was found dead by a housekeeper at the Rodeway Inn on Feb. 26. Young was stabbed and nearly decapitated. Police arrested Fuerte and White. Fuerte was arrested the day before Young was discovered on suspicion of first-degree robbery after allegedly attempting to carjack two women in North Spokane.
Joseph Mathang, 49, was found dead inside a duplex on March 25 in the Emerson-Garfield neighborhood after the tenant on the other side of the duplex reported his mail was stacking up and a strange smell was coming from his home. Police said his body showed injuries consistent with “homicidal violence.” The case remains unsolved, according to the Spokane Police Department.
Nancy Roylance, 80, died at her apartment in north Spokane. Her son, Kurt Roylance, 55, called 911 on March 31 to report his mother had died in the apartment they shared . Kurt told police that his mother had fallen a week or two prior and he had been caring for her at home despite Nancy being unable to move from the spot on the floor where she fell, according to court records. She had developed severe bedsores and was partially naked when first responders arrived, according to court records. During their investigation, police discovered Kurt and Nancy had lived reclusive lives. She had not seen a doctor in more than a decade, Kurt told police. Kurt told police when she fell he thought he could take care of her at home like he had after a previous fall, according to court records. Kurt told police he was unsure exactly when his mother fell and denied seeing the severe complications that his mother developed, according to court documents. A neighbor told police she hadn’t seen Nancy in about a month and that a bad smell had been coming from the apartment for about two weeks. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office determined that, while Nancy’s fall appeared to be accidental, her death could have been prevented with medical treatment. Kurt was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter. He is currently awaiting trial.
Andrew Bull, 30, was found dead early on the morning of April 3 in downtown Spokane. Bull, who was homeless, was discovered by a friend who reported his death as a drug overdose. When police arrived, they discovered Bull had been shot. The case quickly went cold until August, when Mary Schaffer was shot and killed in Browne’s Addition. Schaffer’s ex-husband, Nathan Beal, was immediately arrested on suspicion of her killing. Ballistics later matched the gun that killed Schaffer to Bull’s shooting. Beal was charged with Bull’s death shortly after the ballistics report linked the two shootings, and he remains in jail.
Wilber Goodwin Tankersley, 35, was found dead on March 19 hours after police responded to a fight between him and his neighbor, Cameron J. Walker. Police responded to the Wolfe Apartments on Sprague Avenue in downtown Spokane after Walker called 911 to report he and his neighbor had been in a fight. Police spoke with Walker, who received medical treatment. The next morning, Walker went to the downtown police precinct and asked for “some protection” for “a murder,” according to court documents. Police later discovered the neighbor’s body in his apartment. Walker was arrested and remains in jail pending trial.
Taurus Ogletree, 48, was found lying face down on the river trail on the 1600 block of South Riverton Avenue by a 911 caller on June 12. Two months later, police arrested Demetrius Cawthorne, 26, on suspicion of killing Ogletree by shooting him multiple times. Cawthorne, who pleaded guilty to a first-degree robbery charge in 2012, remains in jail.
Lee Williams, 34, was shot dead outside Christ Our Hope church on Monroe Street on June 23. Williams and another man had gotten into an argument over drugs when witnesses said Williams threw the man off of his bike before approaching with a knife and threatening to kill him. The man shot Williams in the head and was not charged with his death after claiming self-defense.
Lonnie Montoya, 38, was shot and killed in an alley in the Nevada Heights neighborhood on July 24. Montoya and Colby Sellers got into a disagreement that morning over stolen engine parts at 1212 E. Nebraska Ave, according to court documents. Sellers told his friends who were at the home, including Bradley Willy, 22, about the confrontation, according to court documents. Montoya was shot multiple times by Willy, according to court records. Willy was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He remains in jail awaiting trial.
Mary Schaffer, 32, was found slumped over in her car on Aug. 8 in Browne’s Addition. She had rented a car and driven up from Oregon to pick up her kids from her ex-husband, Nathan Beal, who is suspected of shooting Schaffer outside his apartment after she texted that she arrived for the handoff. Beal remains in jail awaiting trial.
Anthony Brines, 25, was stabbed and killed during a three-way sex act on Aug. 13, police said. Eric Martinez, 19, told police he was watching Brines and his girlfriend have sex when he started getting “sadistic,” according to court documents. Martinez confessed to stabbing and killing Brines, his girlfriend’s husband. At the time Brines was separated from his wife, but had been living with his wife and her new boyfriend. Martinez remains in jail pending trial.
Jacquon Bailey, 18, was found shot in the head when police arrived to a house party on Sept. 24. Bailey initially was hospitalized and declared brain dead. He died a day later. Upon his death, fellow partygoers James E. Kemple and Ivan D. Liles, both 21, were charged on suspicion of second-degree homicide. They remain in jail pending trial.
Norvell Amos, 15, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Oct. 1. Bullets pierced the fence around his backyard and struck him in the head. The next day, police arrested Elijah Davis, 20, and a 16-year-old suspected “Swavii” gang member. Police believed the minor fired the gun while Davis drove. Another drive-by shooting later that week injured teens and also involved Swavii gang members.
Anthony Vornheder, 40, was stabbed to death in downtown Spokane on Oct. 2. The homeless man had struggled since he was a toddler, when he fell from a balcony and hit his head, his family said. In late November, police arrested a suspect in his homicide who family believe mistook Vornheder for a man who had robbed his friend days prior; Vornheder had been in jail at the time of that robbery. Months after the homicide suspect’s arrest, charges have not been filed against the man.
John W. McGrath, 63, died on Oct. 19 at 1508 W. Courtland Ave. Little information has been released about his death, but the Spokane Police Department is investigating it as a homicide and has classified it as unsolved. His cause and manner of death are listed as pending by the Spokane County Medical Examiner.
Daunte Frazier, 18, was shot and killed at a party with multiple Swavii gang members in attendance on Dec. 4. Gang members were partying, drinking and dancing while holding guns, according to court documents. Jaliauna Templeton, 18, was arrested on suspicion of accidentally shooting her friend, Frazier, in the head. Templeton posted bail and is awaiting trial for manslaughter.
Carlos Smith, 50, was found dead lying in the middle of Pacific Avenue on Dec. 14. Smith had traveled from Mississippi a few days before with his son, Travis Young, who also was shot but not killed, and Frankie Lewis Kimble Jr., 34, who was arrested on suspicion of the shootings. Kimble told police Smith and Young had been family friends he had known most of his life, according to court documents. Smith and Kimble argued that night while sleeping in their car, according to court documents. Young awoke to the pair arguing before Kimble pulled a gun, according to court documents. Kimble was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, assault and possession of a stolen firearm. He remains in jail pending trial.
Joseph “Sabastian” Buskirk, 41, was shot in the chest on Dec. 27 outside of his home on South Madelia Street near East Sprague Avenue. Police suspect Shawn McCoy of killing Buskirk to avenge McCoy’s friend’s death years prior. In 2013, Buskirk said he killed Brandon Compogno out of self-defense, according to court documents. McCoy allegedly harbored resentment for Buskirk while the two men were in and out of prison. When their paths crossed in 2020, police believe McCoy shot and killed Buskirk. Officers shot and killed McCoy days later, when he allegedly pulled a gun after a car chase with police, according to court documents.