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‘Person of interest’ in disappearance of Vancouver woman, girl charged in 2017 murder in Arkansas

March 24, 2023 Updated Fri., March 24, 2023 at 8:19 p.m.

By Becca Robbins Columbian

The man charged in a drive-by shooting at his former girlfriend’s Vancouver apartment and implicated in her and her daughter’s disappearances is also accused of shooting a man in the head and leaving his body in an Arkansas ditch in November 2017.

Kirkland C. Warren, 28, is charged in Jefferson County, Arkansas, Circuit Court with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. The charges were filed in February 2018, court records show.

An Arkansas County sheriff’s deputy responded at 2:41 p.m. Dec. 11, 2017, to a road west of Stuttgart, Arkansas. When the deputy arrived, three men were waiting for him near their pickup, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The men told the deputy they’d pulled over to use the restroom, and they spotted a man lying on his back in a nearby ditch. One of the men immediately called 911, the affidavit states.

As more law enforcement arrived, an Arkansas State trooper noticed the man appeared to have a gunshot wound to his head, court records state. The trooper also noted part of the body appeared to have been mutilated by animals.

Officials contacted the Pine Bluff, Ark., Police Department about any missing persons in its area. A detective there said the agency knew of a missing person matching the victim’s description and later identified him as Curtis Urquhart, 57, of Pine Bluff, according to court records.

Urquhart was last seen Nov. 27, 2017, leaving a law office in Pine Bluff with Warren, then 22.

A notary at the law firm told officers Warren and Urquhart left her office together in a Hyundai Sonata. Urquhart was reported missing the next day, the affidavit states.

On Dec. 12, 2017, investigators interviewed Warren at the Pine Bluff Police Department. Warren told them he left the notary’s office with Urquhart on Nov. 27, 2017, and they drove around. He said Urquhart wanted money from him, but he refused to give it to him, according to court records.

Officers said Warren told them he became fearful for his life as he was driving, so he reached under the driver’s seat and pulled out a handgun and shot Urquhart in the head while driving, according to the affidavit.

Investigators said Warren then told them he found a gravel road near Stuttgart and dumped Urquhart’s body in the ditch.

Police arrested Warren on Dec. 12, 2017. The next day, a Jefferson County District Court judge found probable cause for first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, for the manner in which he disposed of Urquhart’s body. The judge set Warren’s bond at $250,000, court records indicate.

Warren posted the bond the next day, court records show. The prosecution filed the charge Feb. 7, 2018, in Circuit Court, and a judge ordered the same $250,000 bond amount.

His trial has been postponed numerous times for a variety of reasons, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to witness illnesses to waiting on evidence. The case remains pending with trial tentatively scheduled for October.

Prosecutors in Arkansas filed a motion March 14 to revoke Warren’s bond, citing his domestic violence charges in Clark County Superior Court, in connection with the Vancouver drive-by shooting. The motion also noted the allegations later added in the Clark County case, accusing Warren of violating a no-contact order with his former girlfriend, Meshay “Karmen” Melendez.

A judge granted the motion Monday and ordered his bond be revoked. Warren appeared on a warrant for the Arkansas case Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court. He admitted he is the person wanted in Arkansas, but he refused to waive extradition to be turned over to authorities there.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis ordered Warren be held without bail on the warrant.

Later Wednesday, authorities found two bodies believed to be those of Melendez, and her 7-year-old daughter, Layla Stewart, in a rural area east of Washougal.

Police previously named Warren a person of interest in their disappearances. He has not been charged in connection with their deaths.

Family ties

Warren’s father, Donald E. Warren, was formerly an attorney and a judge in Jefferson County, Ark. He resigned from his role as a judge in August 2009 following allegations of misconduct.

In his letter of resignation, addressed to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission, Donald Warren agreed to “not serve in any judicial capacity in the State of Arkansas ever.”

Donald Warren was arrested and charged in 2008 with second-degree forgery, abuse of office and attempted theft of property valued at $500 or less, according to a press release from the judicial discipline commission.

The commission states Donald Warren, who was a licensed attorney and a City Court judge in Altheimer, Ark., sat as a special judge in Jefferson County Circuit Court on July 16, 2008. During that time, Donald Warren issued an order on his own motion to direct the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to assist in returning a mower deck he believed belonged to him, the release states.

The commission alleged he violated judicial codes around impartiality, integrity, impropriety and conflict of interest.

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