Samantha Kalinchuk enjoyed basketball, longboarding and following the Houston Astros. And she was happy to help her friends when they needed it.
That included caring for the young son of her friend, Shawna Fromang.
“She was always willing to help me with my 1-year-old son, Carter,” Fromang said. “He loved Sam. She was his favorite.”
On April 30, Kalinchuk’s decomposed body was found outside a residence in the 600 block of Farm Lane, about 2 miles east of Mabton, Washington. An autopsy determined she died from a single gunshot wound to the head and had been dead for at least one day before she was found, according to the Yakima County Coroner’s Office. Her death has been ruled a homicide. She was 17.
Juan Carlos Sandoval, 37, who is a suspect in multiple Yakima Valley crimes, is a person of interest in her killing. The convicted sex offender was believed to be with Kalinchuk, according to a court document and Yakima County sheriff’s spokesman Casey Schilperoort.
Fromang is sad and angry. She posted on social media late last year that Kalinchuk was with Sandoval and asked her friends to share her post, which included photos, and to notify authorities immediately if they saw Sandoval or Kalinchuk. “She’s in danger,” Fromang wrote at the time.
“I wish that people would have shared my post back in December when she was still alive,” Fromang said recently. “Maybe she would be alive.”
But she can’t dwell on the what-ifs now, she added.
“All I can do for her is give her justice and never forget her,” Fromang said.
Building a timeline
In a Facebook post on Dec. 27, Fromang said Kalinchuk had been living at the Crosswalk Youth Shelter in downtown Spokane. The shelter was recently in the news with the announcement that it would be receiving $2.5 million from the state of Washington to construct a new shelter at a different location.
Fromang said in her December post that Sandoval and Kalinchuk were in the Lower Yakima Valley area and he refused to take her back to Spokane. They were staying in his vehicle then, she wrote, and could be lying about Kalinchuk’s age.
“This man is violent … And the last thing she messaged was that he was becoming more and more violent every day,” Fromang wrote at the time.
Detectives are still trying to establish when, where and for how long Sandoval and Kalinchuk were together. Sandoval was asked by sheriff’s detectives about Kalinchuk, but he requested a lawyer and declined to answer any more questions, Yakima County sheriff’s spokesman Casey Schilperoort has said.
Sandoval’s prior convictions include third-degree rape, third-degree child rape, unlawful imprisonment, second-degree escape, failure to register as a sex offender, eluding, fourth-degree assault, third-degree domestic violence assault, second-degree possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Kalinchuk’s body was found 22 miles from where Sandoval is accused of stealing a truck from farmworkers at gunpoint the day before.
In a probable cause affidavit, the workers said Sandoval approached them in the 7700 block of East Zillah Drive near Outlook and demanded the keys to their work vehicle while pointing a gun at them, the affidavit said.
The affidavit also said that deputies had been trying to locate Sandoval since December for a warrant on an eluding charge out of Yakima County Superior Court. The affidavit also stated that Sandoval was supposed to be with Kalinchuk, whom it described as a runaway from Spokane.
Sandoval was arrested outside Legends Casino Hotel on May 2 following a three-hour standoff in the parking lot that prompted a lockdown at the Toppenish casino. Sandoval is set to be arraigned in Yakima County Superior Court on June 5 on a first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm charge in that case and on the eluding charge, and June 6 in the carjacking.
Along with the warrant for eluding, Sandoval also had a warrant from Benton County Superior Court on a first-degree kidnapping charge and failing to register as a sex offender from Spokane County Superior Court.
He remains in the Yakima County jail in lieu of $1.07 million bail on his Yakima County charges and the Benton County warrant.
‘A kind and thoughtful student’
Kalinchuk was identified a few weeks after her body was found. Investigators first examined her teeth and fingerprints and checked databases for missing people. Her remains were confirmed through dental records.
After Kalinchuk was identified, the principal at Mount Spokane High School released a statement, KXLY reported. Kalinchuk had attended Mount Spokane High.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former student Samantha Kalinchuk. Our thoughts are with her and her family,” Chelsea Gallagher said in her statement. “She was a kind and thoughtful student. She enjoyed Graphic Design, Science courses, basketball and was an avid Houston Astros fan.”
Fromang met Kalinchuk last August, when a friend of hers who knew Sandoval brought Kalinchuk to her for a place to stay, Fromang said. Kalinchuk told Fromang she had met Sandoval in the area of the Crosswalk Youth Shelter, where she had been staying, and he used a different name, she said.
As a convicted sex offender, Sandoval was required to register and update his address with authorities whenever he moved. Sandoval had lived in several locations in the last several years, according to records, including Spokane.
After learning more about Sandoval, Fromang convinced Kalinchuk to stay with her instead of going with Sandoval as she had originally planned at the time. “But she was way too trusting” and left with Sandoval when she needed a ride later last year and no one else was available to give her one, Fromang said.
Kalinchuk loved longboarding and hanging out with her friends, Fromang said. She “had a big heart with room for everyone in it,” she added. “She was amazing and very much loved.”
“She was a beautiful soul. … When she smiled, it just warmed your heart,” she said.