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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man accused of killing man at Mead homeless camp stands trial

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 28, 2021

A 23-year-old man accused of killing a man at a homeless camp in Mead last year stands trial this week in Spokane County Superior Court.

Pierre D. Rhodes is charged with first-degree murder for the killing of James H. Peterson, 41, on July 4, 2020.

Another man, Robert J. Tolliver, 38, has pleaded guilty to first conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery in connection to the incident.

Witnesses reported that Rhodes had stored a stolen bike, believed to be the victim’s, in the witnesses’ garage, according to court records.

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of a body in the early morning hours of July 5 at a homeless camp in the woods near Farwell Road and U.S. Highway 2.

Tolliver, also was arrested and charged with murder after he called and reported his friend Peterson was dead. In a plea agreement, Tolliver’s charges were reduced to conspiracy to commit robbery. 

When police arrived they found Peterson, who had lived in the camp for about 10 months, on a couch inside a tent with significant head trauma, according to court records.

Detective Nathan Bohanek told the court Wednesday he believes that Peterson was killed with a Dewalt battery-powered angle grinder found in the tent.

Initially, Tolliver told a witness he and a friend had gone to Peterson’s camp to look for stolen bike parts. Then he had left that friend at Peterson’s camp, according to court documents.

Rhodes trial began Monday in front of Judge Michelle Szambelan.

The prosecution called witnesses, including Tolliver and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Detectives, during the first three days of trial and will continue Thursday. The trial is scheduled to continue through the beginning of next week.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated the charge Tolliver pleaded guilty to. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. 

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