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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Remains of Bret Snow, killed in 2015, identified by genetic genealogy

Photos of Bret R. Snow, 32, is believed to have been beaten to death at a home in Newman Lake in December 2015, and four people have been sentenced to prison in connection with his death.  (Spokane County Sheriff’s Office)

Skull fragments found in the Spokane River have been identified as belonging to Bret Robert Snow, a 32-year-old Spokane Valley man who was murdered in 2015, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday.

Snow’s killing happened in a workshop building outside Newman Lake, but the murder weapon was never found. Until recently, none of Snow’s remains had been located. Authorities believe the slaying was drug-related, and that Snow may have been beaten to death and dismembered to hide evidence of the killing.

In September 2018, a man fly-fishing in the Spokane River found a small skull fragment, but DNA analysis could not be completed at the time due to a lack of resources, according to the sheriff’s office. In August 2020, another skull fragment was found in a different area of the river. Both fragments had been kept in storage.

In 2022, resources became available to examine the skull fragments. Using American Rescue Plan Act funds, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office sent both fragments to Texas-based Othram Inc., a company that specializes in extracting DNA from small or degraded samples, according to the sheriff’s office. Othram confirmed the fragments belonged to the same person, and law enforcement uploaded the DNA profile to various genealogy databases, identifying dozens of relatives and confirming the remains belonged to Snow.

Despite the lack of identified remains in the years following his death, four people have been sentenced to prison in connection with Snow’s murder.

Colby Vodder, who helped kill and dismember Snow, was sentenced last year to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

Alvaro Guajardo was sentenced to 47 years at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for first-degree murder.

Cheryl Sutton was sentenced to 31 years for first-degree murder. She is serving a federal drug sentence at a facility in Waseca, Minnesota. On appeal, Sutton’s first-degree murder conviction was upheld.

Another man involved in the killing, Kenneth Stone, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder, for which he is serving time concurrent with a 12-year stay in federal prison for drug charges.