Bodies of missing mother, daughter found near Washougal, police say
March 21, 2023 Updated Wed., March 22, 2023 at 7:53 p.m.
Meshay Melendez, and her daughter, Layla Stewart, 7, were reported missing March 12. Police say they found their bodies Wednesday. (Courtesy)
VANCOUVER, Wash. – Authorities have found two bodies believed to be those of a missing Vancouver woman and her 7-year-old daughter in a rural area east of Washougal, police announced Wednesday.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded around 9:40 a.m. to a report of what appeared to be two “life-sized mannequins” down an embankment off Southeast Wooding Road in thick brush, a police statement said.
When deputies arrived, they found two people dead, the sheriff’s office said.
Vancouver police detectives responded, and the department tentatively identified the bodies as those of Meshay “Karmen” Melendez, 27, and her daughter, Layla Stewart.
The two were reportedly last seen the morning of March 12 with Melendez’s former boyfriend, Kirkland Warren, according to court records. Melendez’s mother reported the pair missing Saturday after she couldn’t reach them for their regular video session.
Families members have been notified, according to Vancouver police. The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office will release their cause and manner of death. The sheriff’s office’s Major Crimes Unit is investigating the scene where they were found.
Vancouver police had conducted a welfare check at about 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the Springfield Meadows Apartments, at 4317 N.E. 66th Ave., after family members reported they hadn’t heard from the two since March 11. A friend told the family that the pair hadn’t been home in several days and their dog was inside their apartment barking, a news release states.
When a family member let officers inside Melendez’s apartment, they found no one inside except for the dog, Vancouver police said.
Officers learned Melendez, Stewart and Warren stayed the night at a friend’s apartment the night of March 11. They were seen leaving in a burgundy Dodge Charger at about 6 a.m. March 12, according to the news release.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Vancouver Police Department named Warren, 28, a person of interest in their disappearances.
On Sunday, Melendez’s mother found her daughter’s car, a Chrysler 200, in the 7800 block of Northeast Loowit Loop. Vancouver police seized her car as evidence, the department said.
Also on Sunday, Vancouver police served a search warrant on Warren’s residence, in the 3700 block of Northeast 109th Avenue. Officers arrested Warren on suspicion of tampering with a witness, unlawful possession of a firearm and violating a no-contact order with Melendez.
Warren was originally accused of shooting at Melendez’s apartment in the Minnehaha area on Dec. 13. At his initial first appearance in Clark County Superior Court on March 3, he was ordered to not have contact with Melendez. During that hearing, the prosecution said a danger assessment found Warren poses an “extreme risk” to Melendez, with a score of 31 on a scale of 1 to 18.
He is already charged with drive-by shooting, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, gross misdemeanor harassment with bodily injury and two counts of fourth-degree assault, all charged as domestic violence crimes. He is also charged with making a false statement for allegedly lying on a gun application. He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors also noted Warren has a pending case for a 2017 homicide in Arkansas. Court records show he posted $250,000 bond in that case Dec. 13, 2017, the day after his arrest.
A judge in Arkansas revoked Warren’s bond Monday, court records show.
He appeared Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court on a warrant for the Arkansas case. Through his defense attorney, Darquise Cloutier, he admitted he is the person wanted in Arkansas but refused to waive extradition. A review hearing is scheduled for April 21, at which point prosecutors plan to present a governor’s warrant for his extradition.
In the meantime, Judge Robert Lewis ordered Warren be held without bail on the warrant.
At the March 3 hearing, Warren’s bail was set at $100,000. Clark County prosecutors did not request Warren wear a GPS ankle monitor – for domestic violence offenders who are released pending trial – as part of his restrictions for release, and the court did not order electronic monitoring.
Deputy Prosecutor Taylor Knight, who leads the domestic violence unit, said she couldn’t comment on why prosecutors did not request electronic monitoring earlier this month.
Warren posted bail later that day and was released, court records indicate.
That same day, Warren was cited in Clark County District Court for violating the domestic violence protection order by calling Melendez twice from the Clark County Jail, according to court records. That charge was later added to his Superior Court case.
Before the bodies were discovered Wednesday, a judge on Tuesday had increased the bail to $1 million, pending new charges in the case, and ordered Warren to wear a GPS ankle device if he posted bail.
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