Combining resources makes solving crimes more efficient
Over the last few weeks Lake Stevens has lost two young women to homicide. These two murders have kept the Lake Stevens Police Detectives, and the department as a whole, very busy. Apprehending the suspects in these cases was important to the entire community.
Fifteen-year-old Molly Conley was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on June 1 while walking down South Lake Stevens Road with friends and Phillipa Evans-Lopez, 20, was stabbed to death in a home near 15th St. SE and 92nd Ave. SE.
Police detectives Dean Thomas and Jared Wachtveitl started investigating both crimes immediately and soon called in Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office’s Major Crimes Unit to help with the investigation. The detectives knew that pulling resources would hasten the investigation, helping the victim’s families and would also put the community at ease.
“When it’s a homicide we always call on our neighbors,” Lake Stevens Police Department’s Interim Police Chief Dan Lorentzen said. ” We base it on how much manpower we will need.”
Solving these crimes takes a lot of people – from detectives, to forensic specialists, to administration – and while Lake Stevens P.D. has two very capable detectives in Thomas and Wachtveitl, they needed the extra help to be able to sort through evidence in a timely manner.
Also, most small police departments can’t afford to staff and maintain their own crime labs so they pool resources with larger departments.
“Everybody involved in solving these cases, from patrol to forensics to the detectives, worked non-stop to get these cases solved,” Thomas said. “You tend to think about it non-stop. ‘Is there anything I might be missing?’”
Thomas and Wachtveitl rely on their friends at the Major Crimes Unit to help them solve these bigger cases. Detective Scott Wells and Detective Brad Pince were major contributors to both of these cases.
“I want to stress how much I appreciate the Major Crimes Unit, their knowledge and their willingness to share information. They consistently wanted our input,” Thomas explained. “It was a learning experience because of their expertise in solving homicides.”
In the Conley case it was Detective Wells who started calling retail stores to find out who had purchased the type of .30 caliber weapon used.
“This was a great place to start,” Thomas said. “Once the paint chips from the vehicle came back we knew we were looking for a black, passenger car with front end damage. Then we all started cross-referencing those two pieces of evidence.”
No, things don’t move as quickly in real life as they do on television, however, because of the continued work of both of these police units, they were able to make arrests in two murders pretty quickly.
“They (the detectives from both units) talk to each other daily, that’s how integrated these cases are,” Lorentzen said. “I have seen this type of cooperation in the 20+ years I have been working for the police department. We all just wanted to find Molly’s and Phillipa’s killers.”
“I couldn’t ask for better people to work with,” Thomas said. “These cases become very personal.”
Even the victims whose homes and cars were hit by the drive-by shooter on June 1 wanted to help solve this case. One homeowner told the police that if they needed to pull all of the sheetrock down they could. He just wanted to help find the suspect who had shot Conley.
Many residents and businesses offered their surveillance videos to the authorities.
“It was not only a police effort but a community effort as well,” Thomas said. “And Jared and I used our time with these detectives to become sponges in an effort to learn from them.”
Departments from all over the county also wanted to help find these suspects. Departments from Marysville to Lynnwood offered any help they could give.
“We had offers from everyone from the Lynnwood Police Department to the FBI offering to help,” Lorentzen said. “It was nice to know, as a law enforcement specialist, that your neighbors are always willing to step up and help.”
The good news is that suspects have been apprehended in both of these cases. Erick N. Walker was arrested in the Molly Conley shooting on June 28 and is being held on $5 million bail at the Snohomish County Jail.
Anthony Garver was arrested on July 2 and was ordered detained without bail on Monday, July 8.
“These two homicides were two and a half weeks apart and both were crucial for us to solve,” Lorentzen said. “We put in the same effort for all of our investigations and we rely on our friends in the county and Marysville a lot when we have such a huge load.”
Detectives are continuing their investigations of both cases.