Authorities found two bodies believed to be those of a missing Vancouver woman and her 7-year-old daughter in a rural area east of Washougal, police announced Wednesday.
The Clark County Sheriff's Office responded at about 9:40 a.m. to a report of suspicious circumstances. A man walking his dog reported finding what he thought were two "life-sized mannequins" down an embankment in thick brush off Southeast Wooding Road near Sunset View Road, according to the agency.
When deputies arrived about an hour later, they found two people dead. Vancouver police detectives were notified soon after and responded, sheriff's Sgt. Chris Skidmore said.
The police department tentatively identified the bodies as those of Meshay "Karmen" Melendez, 27, and her daughter, Layla Stewart.
Families members were notified, according to Vancouver police. The Clark County Medical Examiner's Office will release their cause and manner of death. The sheriff's office's Major Crimes Unit is investigating the scene where they were found, which Skidmore said is considered a homicide investigation.
"The family is grateful for all the community support, and we ask that people respect the privacy of the family while they process and grieve," according to a statement from the National Women's Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation, sent on behalf of Melendez and Layla's family.
The mother and daughter were last seen the morning of March 12 with Melendez's former boyfriend, Kirkland C. Warren, according to investigators. Melendez's mother reported the pair missing Saturday after she couldn't reach them for their regular video chat session.
Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said the department considers the missing persons case closed, calling it "a very tragic resolution."
Kapp was unsure Wednesday evening if Warren, 28, is a suspect in their deaths or if investigators have identified other persons of interest. On Tuesday, police had named Warren a person of interest in their disappearances.
"Today is a very dark day. It's never easy to get this kind of news, and our heart goes out to the family. But let me make one thing clear, as hard as we all fight as advocates and nonprofits against violence things like this do not need to happen," said Michelle Bart, president and co-founder of NWCAVE.
Vancouver police had conducted a welfare check on Melendez and her daughter at about 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Springfield Meadows Apartments, 4317 N.E. 66th Ave., after family members reported they hadn't heard from them since March 11. A friend told the family the pair hadn't been home in several days, and their dog was inside the apartment barking, a police news release states.
When a family member let officers inside Melendez's apartment, they found no one inside except for the dog, police said.
Officers learned Melendez, Stewart and Warren stayed the night at a friend's apartment the night of March 11. They were seen leaving in a burgundy Dodge Charger at about 6 a.m. March 12, according to the news release.
On Sunday, Melendez's mother found her daughter's car, a Chrysler 200, in the 7800 block of Northeast Loowit Loop in the VanMall neighborhood. Police seized her car as evidence, the department said.
Also on Sunday, police served a search warrant at Warren's residence in the 3700 block of Northeast 109th Avenue in Vancouver's Kevanna Park neighborhood, the department said. Officers arrested Warren on suspicion of tampering with a witness, unlawful possession of a firearm and violating a no-contact order with Melendez.
Bail set at $1M for Vancouver man suspected of shooting at home of girlfriend, now missing
A judge set bail at $1 million Tuesday for a Vancouver man accused of shooting at his girlfriend's apartment and ordered he wear a GPS...
Family of missing Vancouver mom, daughter feel let down by court system
The family of missing mother and daughter, Meshay Melendez and Layla Stewart, say they believe Vancouver's Kirkland Warren holds the answers to their whereabouts.
Domestic violence case
Warren was originally accused of shooting at Melendez's apartment in the Minnehaha area on Dec. 13. At his initial first appearance March 3 in Clark County Superior Court, he was ordered to not have contact with Melendez. During that hearing, the prosecution said a danger assessment found Warren poses an "extreme risk" to Melendez, with a score of 31 on a scale of 1 to 18.
He is already charged with drive-by shooting, second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, gross misdemeanor harassment with bodily injury and two counts of fourth-degree assault, all charged as domestic violence crimes. He is also charged with making a false statement for allegedly lying on a gun application. He's pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Clark County prosecutors also noted Warren has a pending case for a 2017 homicide in Arkansas. Court records show he posted $250,000 bond in that case Dec. 13, 2017, the day after his arrest. A judge in Arkansas revoked Warren's bond Monday, court records show.
Warren was back in Superior Court on Wednesday on a warrant for the Arkansas case. Through his defense attorney, Darquise Cloutier, he admitted he is the person wanted in Arkansas, but he refused to waive extradition to be turned over to authorities there. A review hearing is scheduled for April 21, at which point prosecutors plan to present a governor's warrant for his extradition.
In the meantime, Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis ordered Warren be held without bail on the warrant. Warren was being held on $1 million bail in the drive-by shooting case and subject to electronic monitoring if released; those restrictions were ordered Tuesday.
At his March 3 hearing, Warren's bail was set at $100,000. Clark County prosecutors did not request Warren wear a GPS ankle monitor — for domestic violence offenders who are released pending trial — as part of his restrictions for release, and the court did not order electronic monitoring.
Warren posted bail later that day and was released, court records indicate.
Deputy Prosecutor Taylor Knight, who leads the domestic violence unit, said she couldn't comment on why prosecutors did not request electronic monitoring at that time.
That same day, Warren was cited in Clark County District Court for violating the domestic violence protection order by calling Melendez twice from the Clark County Jail, according to court records. That charge was later added to his Superior Court case.