Advertising

Sunday, May 30, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

E-mail article     Print

At The End Of The Day, 4 Were Dead

Seattle Times Staff Reporters

Jogger Jeff Van Horn thought the man on the Shoreline porch Friday afternoon was doing some yard work. His swinging motions were methodical, repetitious. At one point, their eyes met.

"I stopped running, and he stopped what he was doing," Van Horn said. Then Van Horn resumed his run.

It wasn't until Van Horn looped back around a few moments later that he noticed the gate on the corner home was open. Beyond it, on the porch, lay the body of 63-year-old Erma Ruth Spence.

And Van Horn realized he likely had been looking into the eyes of Lonnie Cedric Davis, the man police believe snapped in a daylong killing spree.

Spence, a retired nurse, is thought to be the third person killed in a little more than two hours Friday. In Brier, a suburb northeast of Seattle, Davis' mother and 18-month-old nephew had been stabbed to death.

And before the assailant was shot to death by a police sniper late that afternoon, Davis was involved in a freeway accident that cost a motorcyclist part of his leg. In Shoreline, an elderly neighbor of Spence's was beaten and left with a broken neck.

Then the assailant holed up in a Shoreline home with a ready-made arsenal for an hourslong standoff with police.

Earlier reports that he had been armed with a gun before entering the house have been discounted, said King County sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart.

Before it was over, the barricaded gunman would fire dozens, if not hundreds of rounds at police, seriously hurting one officer and slightly injuring two others.

Shoot to kill

Police have declined to confirm Davis' identity. However, the State Patrol listed him as the driver of the car that crashed on Interstate 5 near Spence's home. Neighbors of his relatives say the family has been notified of the death.

And Brier Police Chief Gary Minor said the victims in Brier - Shelia Lindsey and her grandson, Kahari Prince - were killed by Lindsey's son. Davis is Lindsey's only son.

The gunman's body stayed in an upstairs room in the Shoreline home of Fred Westphal until early yesterday evening, when it was taken to the King County Medical Examiner's Office. An autopsy is scheduled today.

Urquhart said investigators still have no idea what sparked the rampage.

Court records show that Davis, 21, has a substantial criminal record, including drug and weapon arrests. But friends and neighbors insist he was a polite young man - a "gentle spirit" - who deeply loved his mother.

Police efforts to talk the gunman out of the Shoreline house Friday failed; he didn't respond to police calls to give himself up.

The only words anybody has reported the gunman saying Friday afternoon are: "I seem to have lost my way."

After officers came under fire for several hours outside Westphal's gray, split-level home, Sheriff Dave Reichert told snipers to shoot to kill.

The Shoreline neighborhood around Northeast 195th Street and Seventh Avenue Northeast remained behind police tape yesterday. Late in the afternoon, deputies towed away two police cars that had served as shields when gunfire rained down. Urquhart said deputies counted at least 15 bullet holes in one car and six in the other.

Lingering tear gas that was fired into Westphal's home Friday afternoon hampered detectives' investigation of the house.

No signs of struggle in Brier

The rampage began with the stabbing deaths of Davis' mother and nephew in a quiet neighborhood in Brier.

The stabbings likely took place around noon Friday, said Minor, the Brier police chief.

The toddler, 18-month-old Kahari Prince, was found in an upstairs bedroom, surrounded by blankets and toys, stabbed in the chest.

His grandmother, Shelia Lindsey, 46, was found in a hall just outside the boy's room, stabbed several times in the chest and stomach by a 3-inch kitchen knife.

Minor said there were no signs the woman had struggled. Police speculate she may have heard the toddler cry out and, when she went to him, became the second victim of her son's unexplained rage.

"He was there long enough to change out of bloody clothes, which he left in the master bedroom - along with his driver's license," Minor said.

Shelia Lindsey's husband, Jimmy Lindsey, found the bodies when he came home from renewing his car-license plates a little after 3 p.m. - about the same time that Davis, his stepson, apparently was barricading himself in a Shoreline house.

`There was a kind of revulsion'

In the quiet, secluded Echo Lake neighborhood of Shoreline, several residents worked on their houses and gardens yesterday. One woman left in tears when asked about her dead neighbor, and others stayed away. A few walked their dogs.

And a few said they were glad they weren't home Friday afternoon.

"There was a kind of revulsion," said Charlie Kester. "People were very revolted that somebody would do that in their neighborhood."

About a dozen homes along Seventh Avenue Northeast, a dead end, were barricaded until about 5:45 p.m. yesterday, although officers had let residents return home by late Friday night.

Mike Pittman, who lived two homes away from slain Erma Ruth Spence, said he will always feel strange walking past her house. "There's going to be a lot of bad energy in this neighborhood for a long time," he said.

Austin Westphal, 16, whose house was commandeered by the gunman, arrived with several friends late yesterday afternoon, eager to get home. He said two of the family's dogs are safe but one is missing.

"It's weird," he said. "He was nice enough to leave the dogs alone."

Police said Davis had driven his mother's Honda south from Brier early Friday afternoon. Patrol spokesman Tom Foster said Davis was weaving wildly through the holiday weekend traffic at speeds approaching 100 mph.

Just as the southbound lanes bend slightly at Northeast 195th Street, witnesses say, the car made an abrupt lane change and collided with a motorcycle driven by Anthony Venegas, 64, of Everett. Venegas lost part of a leg as a result of the accident.

The car was demolished and burst into flames, but Davis walked away. Police say he jumped a sound wall near a pedestrian walkway, just a few yards from Spence's yard.

Spence was killed and her assailant later wandered west across Seventh Avenue Northeast into a home and sat on the couch. Michael Barker and his roommate, John Berger, forced the man from the house by threatening him with a fish thumper, which looks like a small baseball bat.

Berger said the man kept saying, "I seem to have lost my way. You've lost your way."

From there, police think, the man moved south along Seventh Avenue Northeast as the neighborhood buzzed with rumors of violence and police swarmed in.

Kester saw a man walking - not running - from a footbridge that spans I-5. He sensed that something was wrong when he heard a woman shout, "He hurt the ladies!"

Kester said he saw the man stop and talk with an elderly woman watering her lawn. A few minutes later, police would find 82-year-old Irene Hilton beaten and incoherent in her back yard.

Then the man broke into the Westphal home two houses farther down the street. Family members said there were seven firearms in the house. Police later said they found five, including a semiautomatic assault pistol, and ample ammunition.

A shootout with police lasted several hours until a sniper bullet killed the man.

Few knew family in Brier

No one on the Brier cul-de-sac really knows Jimmy Lindsey. There was the occasional wave as he walked to the mail drop, maybe a quiet hello. And some didn't even know his wife's name, until Friday, when she was found dead.

"Everybody knows everybody on this block, except, I guess, for one person," said Julie Whittles, the block-watch captain of the street. "They were quiet and kept to themselves. Except for one barbecue, they never had people over."

Neighbors were still in a daze over Friday's mayhem, which began with the slaying of Shelia Lindsey and her grandson. The one-man killing spree broadcast into their homes and offices seemed more like a movie script.

"It was really disturbing, hard to sleep last night," said Laura James, who yesterday walked to the Lindseys' home next door to place flowers with the half-dozen home-grown bouquets lying at the edge of the driveway. "We're just praying for their souls."

The residents are not alone in their confusion. Brier police still are trying to piece together what triggered it.

"Although he had a few run-ins in King County, we had no problems with Lonnie (Davis). We never dealt with him at all," said Minor, the police chief. "We think he may have been looking for employment and talking about going back to school. But as far as I know, there were no problems with his family."

Police think the murders of Lindsey and her grandson took place between noon and 1 p.m., Minor said. When Jimmy Lindsey called police at 3:15 Friday, Minor was listening to what had been happening in Shoreline.

Police did not link the crimes until after they got to the Lindsey home.

"Everything fit together in a real close time frame," Minor said. "We knew that a black car which belonged to mom (Shelia Lindsey) was the black car involved in the accident. It began to look more and more like it was the same person."

Brier officers, assisted by Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds and Lynnwood police, immediately closed off the street and began interviewing neighbors. No one had noticed anything suspicious, Minor said. And neighbors said they never realized that Davis had been living with the Lindseys for the last four months.

"We seem to know about everything else going on in the neighborhood," said neighbor Bob Hartle. "It's so strange because we live so close."

Day of grief in Rainier Valley

Even in the late May warmth, a stream of visitors to the house at the end of the dead-end street in Rainier Valley wore formal clothes that matched their heavy expressions.

Cars were parked outside, but no voices heard within.

Yesterday was a day of grieving at the home of Shelonda Davis and Mark Prince, the parents of 18-month-old Kahari Prince and daughter and son-in-law to Shelia Lindsey.

A relative said the couple was not prepared to discuss the deaths. Neighbors who knew Davis declined to talk about him.

Sharon Williams, who lives next door to the Prince family, said she was one of the first to realize the depth of the tragedy.

On Friday afternoon, police officers who had assembled on the family's front yard stopped Mark Prince as he came home and told him to go next door and call Brier police.

Prince apologized to Williams for the inconvenience and made a call, she said.

"(The conversation) was real, real short," Williams said. "He was in shock. And he said `It couldn't be Lonnie.' "

Seattle Times reporters Alex Fryer and R.T. Nelson contributed to this report.

Mike Carter's phone message number is 206-464-3706. His e-mail address is: mcarter@seattletimes.com

Keiko Morris' phone message number is 425-745-7804. Her e-mail address is kmorris@seattletimes.com

Mike Lindblom's phone message number is 206 515-5631. His e-mail address is mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 1999 The Seattle Times Company

advertising


Get home delivery today!

Advertising