Police announced Wednesday that two bodies believed to be those of a missing Vancouver woman and her 7-year-old daughter were discovered in a rural area east of Washougal.
At approximately 9:40 a.m., the Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of suspicious circumstances. According to the agency, a man walking his dog discovered what he believed to be two “life-sized mannequins” down an embankment in thick brush off Southeast Wooding Road near Sunset View Road.
When deputies arrived one hour later, they discovered two bodies. Chris Skidmore, a sheriff’s sergeant, stated that Vancouver police detectives were immediately notified and dispatched.
The police have tentatively identified the deceased as Meshay “Karmen” Melendez, age 27, and her daughter Layla Stewart.
The Vancouver police report that family members were informed. The cause and manner of de*ath will be disclosed by the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office. The Major Crimes Unit of the sheriff’s office is investigating the scene where the bodies were discovered, which Skidmore described as a homicide investigation.
According to a statement from the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation sent on behalf of Melendez and Layla’s family, “the family is grateful for all the community support, and we ask that people respect the family’s privacy while they process and grieve.”
According to investigators, the mother and daughter were last seen with Melendez’s ex-boyfriend Kirkland C. Warren on the morning of March 12. Saturday, Melendez’s mother reported the pair missing after she was unable to contact them for their weekly video chat.
Kim Kapp, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department, stated that the department considers the case of the missing persons to be closed, calling it “a very tragic resolution.”
Wednesday evening, Kapp was uncertain as to whether Warren, 27, is a suspect in their dea*ths or whether investigators have identified other persons of interest. The police identified Warren as a person of interest in their disappearances on Tuesday.
“Today is a gloomy day. This type of news is never easy to hear, and our hearts go out to the family. Michelle Bart, president and co-founder of NWCAVE, stated, “Regardless of how hard we all fight as anti-violence advocates and non-profits, incidents like this do not have to occur.”
Missing persons investigation
Saturday at 2:15 p.m., Vancouver police conducted a welfare check on Melendez and her daughter at the Springfield Meadows Apartments, 4343 N.E. 66th Avenue, after family members reported not hearing from them since March 11. A friend informed the family that the couple hadn’t been home for several days and that their dog was barking inside their apartment, according to a police news release.
Police say that when a family member let officers into Melendez’s apartment, they found only the dog inside.
Officers studied Melendez, Stewart, and Warren spent the night of March 11 at a friend’s apartment. According to the news release, they were seen leaving in a burgundy Dodge Charger at approximately 6:00 a.m. on March 12.
Melendez’s mother discovered her daughter’s Chrysler 200 in the VanMall neighborhood in the 7800 block of Northeast Loowit Loop on Sunday. Police seized her vehicle as evidence, according to the department.
Also on Sunday, police executed a search warrant at Warren’s home in the 3700 block of Northeast 109th Avenue in the Kevanna Park neighborhood of Vancouver, according to the police department. Warren was arrested on suspicion of witness tampering, illegal possession of a firearm, and violation of a no-contact order with Melendez.
Domestic violence case
On December 13, Warren was initially accused of shooting at Melendez’s apartment in the Minnehaha area. At his first court appearance on March 3 in Clark County Superior Court, he was ordered not to contact Melendez. During that hearing, the prosecution stated that Melendez faces a “extreme risk” from Warren, who scored 31 on a scale of 1 to 18.
As domestic violence crimes, he is already charged with drive-by shooting, second-degree assault with a de*adly weapon, gross misdemeanor harassment with bodily injury, and two counts of fourth-degree assault. Additionally, he is charged with making a false statement because he allegedly lied on a gun application. He has entered a not-guilty plea to the charges.
Additionally, Clark County prosecutors noted that Warren has a pending Arkansas homicide case from 2017. According to court records, he posted a $250,000 bond in this case on December 13, 2017, the day following his arrest. Monday, a judge in Arkansas revoked Warren’s bond, according to court documents.
Wednesday, Warren returned to Superior Court on a warrant for the Arkansas case. He admitted through his defense attorney, Darquise Cloutier, that he is the person wanted in Arkansas, but he refused to waive extradition in order to be handed over to Arkansas authorities. On April 21, a review hearing is scheduled, at which time prosecutors intend to present a warrant for his extradition from the governor.
In the interim, Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis issued a warrant for Warren’s detention without bail. In the drive-by shooting case, Warren was being held on $1 million bail and would be subject to electronic monitoring if released; these restrictions were ordered Tuesday.
At his hearing on March 3, bail for Warren was set at $100,000. As part of his restrictions for release, Clark County prosecutors did not request that Warren wear a GPS ankle monitor — for domestic violence offenders who are released pending trial — and the court did not order electronic monitoring.
According to court records, Warren posted bail and was released on March 8.
The head of the domestic violence unit, Deputy Prosecutor Taylor Knight, could not comment on why prosecutors did not request electronic monitoring at that time.
According to court documents, on March 3, Warren was also cited in Clark County District Court for violating the domestic violence protection order by calling Melendez twice from the Clark County Jail. His Superior Court case was later amended to include this charge.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the date Warren was released from the Clark County Jail following his initial court appearance on March 3. Warren was discharged on March 8th. Also inaccurate was the date a judge in Arkansas revoked Warren’s bond in his 2018 mu*rder case. Monday, the judge’s order revoking the defendant’s bond was filed with the Arkansas court.