Nov 2, 2009

The Correct Avenger

A couple days ago I got called at 5am, the body of a nude female turns up in one of our alleys. I grab the camera and meet Detective Brew, who’s already placing the little number tents next to anything that looks like it does not belong in an alley. The victim, dressed only in socks, has obviously been run over by a car.

Our budget-loving Lieutenant, hoping that this is NOT our 3rd homicide in as many weeks says,
“What do you think Kellett, just a hit and run accident?”
Oh ya, I’m sure that naked women are constantly throwing themselves under cars. Some patrol guys find a stack of clothing a block away in a parking lot; a complete set of women’s clothes, minus socks… hhmmm… a clue? Two important leads: first is that there was some ID in the clothes identifying our victim, second there was security video in the parking lot. The low-quality footage shows a black, 97-98 Dodge Avenger dumping the clothes, but nothing else.

One of the other detectives recalled that there was a car matching that description in the parking lot of the half-way house where the victim lived. Sure enough, a black, 98 Avenger- and it was still warm; I’m thinking, too coincidental to be random; this was turning out to be my lucky day. I looked underneath the car and saw… dirt, oil and rust. I crawled (soiling a new pair of Van Husen slacks) under just about every square inch of that car and did not see any sign of it having run over a body. However, I am not a car-pedestrian expert, so I figure we should tow the car and have the traffic reconstruction experts look at it for what may be micro signs of our victim.

I tell the car’s owner that we will be towing the car for investigation, and he goes ballistic. He starts yelling that his car was not involved, that he would never hurt anyone, that there are cars like his all over town, blah, blah, blah. In an attempt to be conciliatory, I explain that I cannot recall the last time I saw this model car driving around; it was just not that popular. Then, exasperated, he tells me he sees them all the time, in fact, he tells me,
“There goes one right there!”

Well, I’ll be, another black Dodge Avenger. We have about 6 detectives standing around with nothing to do, so two of them decide to go pull over this second car. I get a call a minute later, one of the detectives that pulled the car over wants me to look at it, he thinks he sees blood on the rear of the car. I go to the stop, look under the car and… now remember, I’m not a car vs pedestrian expert, but when looking at a 3 inch chunk of scalp wedged in the front suspension, surrounded by an entire frame section covered in blood, I thought maybe THIS was the car I should be towing.

I guess I’m easily influenced by persuasive car owner arguments; that and bloody body parts stuck to someone else’s car.

Local News Story:

Yakima police arrest suspect in Tuesday morning homicide
Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Police are sometimes stymied in crime investigations when witnesses are unwilling to come forward and speak up, but that wasn’t the case in a homicide investigation Tuesday.
Yakima detectives got their first lead from surveillance video taken by a security camera near where Shelly Kinter’s nude body was found about 5 a.m. in an alley off Chestnut Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets.
Her body had been run over, but Sgt. Scot Levno said investigators believe that happened after she had been killed.
The video showed a black Dodge Avenger, and by midday detectives were inspecting just such a car in the parking lot at Connections, an apartment complex in the 100 block of South Naches Avenue for people recovering from substance abuse. Kinter, 42, lived in a second-floor unit there.
As detectives were preparing to impound the car, some Connections residents gathered in the parking lot hollered out that another black Dodge with a cracked windshield was driving past and had been seen going by earlier.
Police located another black Avenger a few minutes later at the 7-Eleven store on Yakima Avenue and arrested the driver. The car had front-end damage above the passenger-side headlight and the windshield was shattered on the driver’s side.
Levno said that car matched what was seen on the surveillance video. “We found blood on the driver and in the passenger compartment, and on the undercarriage of the car,” he said.
The suspect, 20-year-old Aaron Leroy Briden from Tacoma, was booked into the Yakima County jail on a charge of first-degree murder, according to a police news release.
The news release said Kinter died “from apparent trauma to the head and body.” Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said an autopsy will be done today.
Information on the Web site lists a Shelly Kinter as a 1985 graduate of Davis High School.
A man who lives at Connections, which is operated by Triumph Treatment Services, said Kinter was “just a really mellow person; she never did anybody no harm at all.”
“She was a ray of sunshine,” said a woman smoking a cigarette in the Connections parking lot.
At one point a woman drove up to the group and asked if the woman who had been killed was Shelly, and then broke into sobs.
“She was trying to get her life straightened out, and she was doing a good job,” said the woman, who declined to give her name but said she became friends with Kinter at the free weekly meals a church group provides for homeless and needy people in the neighborhood. The woman is a volunteer who helps at the Friday meals.