Homicide victim played role in drug investigations

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Kevin Myrick, 23, is shown while at his stepfather Ray Wetter's home during a family barbecue in late August 2010.

WALLA WALLA - The recent arrest of a county jail inmate for a shooting death last summer of a Sheriff's office "cooperating witness" has left numerous questions as to the nature of Kevin Myrick's involvement with the Sheriff's office as a drug informant.

"I feel like we should have been more protected, honestly. I have a lot of anger inside of me because of this, I don't know how to explain it," Kristina Devaney said.

Devaney, who was Myrick's fiancee, was with Myrick when he was shot in the face while working on her vehicle in their driveway on June 12, 2011.

Myrick died the next day as a result of the wound.

As for Myrick's work with the Sheriff's Department, Devaney said her fiance barely discussed the details of the drug buys he was taking part in.

But she defended Myrick, stating he was not working off an obligation, and that since they had met he had turned his life around.

Myrick's brother, Roger Wetter, agreed with Devaney, and said after getting out of jail Myrick went clean.

Wetter also said that a few weeks before the shooting Myrick had told him he was acting as a paid informant for drug sting operations by the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office, and was paid as much as $200 each time he worked in drug stings.

The Sheriff's office was unwilling to confirm if Myrick was a paid informant, but said he had been working with detectives in an informant capacity.

"I told him it wasn't a good idea. But he was looking out for his family, and he didn't have work. And that was the only income he had at the time. You got to put food on the table for your kids you know," Wetter said.

According to Walla Walla police detectives, Myrick's work with the Sheriff's office as a "cooperating witness" provided a motive for Daniel D. Dodd, 43, who is currently being held in the Walla Walla County Jail on investigation of aggravated homicide.

Documents were filed in Walla Walla County Superior Court last week, and on Friday Dodd's bail was set at $1 million.

As for the details of Dodd's alleged motive, according to court documents Myrick took part in a number of "controlled (drug) buys" with the Sheriff's Office, including one from Tina L. Taylor, 42.

Taylor was Dodd's girlfriend and even displayed a tattoo with "Danny's Girl," according to police.

Myrick was a potential witness in a court case accusing Taylor of delivering hydrocodone.

Sheriff's John Turner said Myrick was an informant, but added he could not discuss the nature of his work with the department because of the ongoing homicide investigation and the department's police to keep informant information confidential.

"I know this is a really tragic time for them. We are very sensitive to how they feel," Turner said.

As for the use of informants or cooperating witnesses, Turner said the department follows protocols when making the decision to use them, but every situation is different, he added.

"This is handled by a case-by-case basis. I have handle informants myself in the past, and everything is situation specific," he said.

Myrick's homicide investigation involved a nine-month probe by the Walla Walla Police Department, and included reviewing cellphone records, monitoring jail phone calls, tracking down a possible weapon and then recovering that weapon from the Snake River on Tuesday by the Columbia Basin Dive Rescue team.

The investigation was hindered by the fact that the only two witnesses, Devaney and an unrelated man who was in the area, could not identify a suspect.

Devaney was sitting in her vehicle, which was parked at their residence at 1123 S. Third Avenue, while Myrick worked under the hood on the vehicle's battery.

It was around 10:20 p.m. when she saw someone approach Myrick, and that is when she heard a sound and though Myrick had been hit with a tool.

"It was pitch black out, and he was dressed in black," Devaney said.

The other witness who happened to be in the area said he heard a loud sound and saw someone running out of a nearby alley.

When police arrived, Myrick was bleeding so severely officers couldn't tell if he had been shot, and Myrick was only able to grunt.

Myrick was transported to Providence St. Mary Medical Center, where it was determined he had been shot in the face.

He was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was pronounced dead on June 13 at 12:25 p.m.

After his death, family members said they began to question Myrick's work with the Sheriff's Office and how it was connected with the shooting.

Myrick's mother, Debbie Parks, said her son rarely talked about what he did for the department.

"I was a little nervous about it. But he assured me that things were OK. It wasn't something that we discussed a lot," Parks said.

Devaney said even after a Molotov cocktail had been thrown on the couple's back porch a few weeks before the shooting, Myrick still wouldn't share what he was doing for the department.

"That happened about 2 o'clock in the morning, and the only reason I was up is that my daughter was sick. So I was sleeping on the couch and I heard this big boom ... I went back there and there were flames coming up the door and we poured water on the flames," Devaney said.

Shortly after the fire-bomb incident, Wetter said his brother told him more about his work with the Sheriff's Office.

"He said they would call him, they would pick him up and bring him to where he needed to go, and do it like that. Toward the end he started telling me that he was scared and he started calling me a lot and wanted me to come over a lot because he was scared," Wetter said.

While the details leading to Myrick's death leave many unanswered questions, Walla Walla police detectives filed a five-page narrative of their investigation on Dodd.

The probable cause document states that Dodd had been arrested on June 16 on unrelated charges.

While being questioned, Dodd said he had no connection with Myrick, didn't know where he lived and said that on the night of Myrick's death, he was in a residence on Wooden Road, north of Prescott.

By tracing cellphone records, detectives were able to prove that Dodd's cellphone has received a voice mail only a few minutes before the shooting.

June 16 was also the day that a Seattle forensics pathologist informed them that the slug that killed Myrick had exited his body.

Detective went back to the Third Avenue residence and recovered a slug that was determined to be either a .32 or .38 caliber.

Roughly a month later, on July 11, Dodd was assigned to a Sheriff's Office work crew. He tried to escape but was apprehended.

The following day, Dodd requested a detective contact him so he could confess to the murder of Kevin Myrick in exchange for lenience for Tina Taylor, according to police.

On Jan. 13 at around midnight, Dodd was found in his cell hanging by the neck from a bedsheet; he lived.

About 15 minutes prior to the hanging incident, Dodd told a detective, "I'm never getting out of here," according to court documents.

It would take months to uncover a trail that would lead to a handgun tossed in the frigid waters of the Snake River.

A few days before the shooting, Dodd resided with an unidentified roommate; that roommate said he loaned Dodd a .357 Smith & Wesson handgun with black rubber grips four days before the shooting.

The handgun was returned to the roommate the morning after the shooting, the report said.

About four days later, the roommate gave the handgun to another unidentified man as a payment.

The roommate said after he gave the gun away, Dodd approached him and told him the gun had been used, but now how.

The roommate told the other man, who was still in possession of the handgun, and that man disposed of it in the Snake River under the bridge at Hood Park.

After months of investigating and witness statements, on March 6 the man who threw the gun into the Snake River showed detectives where he tossed it.

The next day a team of three divers from Columbia Basin Dive Rescue plunged into the 40-degree water near the bridge.

"We had a very good last-seen location. The officer had a very defined area, and we had a high level of confidence that we would be able to find it," duty officer Ryan Hintz said.

About an hour into the search, with only two-feet visibility, Hintz said he saw what looked liked the outline of a handgun in the silt.

In would still be a while before Hintz would recover the handgun, as he described what he had found to detectives above, and waited for instructions on how to proceed.

After taking a series of photographs, the handgun was recovered; it was a stainless steel Smith & Wesson handgun with black grips.

"I was very excited. It matched the description exactly for what we were looking for, and I had a high degree of confidence that it will match the firearm that the police department are looking for," Hintz said.

On Friday, Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said he didn't expect to file a formal charge until this week.

He said he didn't know if it would include an allegation of an aggravating factor, which on conviction would result in a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty if the prosecution seeks it.

Myrick's mother said she will take part in any trials, and was at Friday's bail hearing.

"Every day he has in court, I am going to be there every single day, and hope and pray that things go our way in court and justice is served," Parks said.

Devaney said she will keep busy raising her two daughters, Allison, 5, and Hailey, 18 months.

Devaney said Myrick was Hailey's father and had plans to adopt Allison after the two were married.

On Saturday, Devaney dropped off a photo at the Union-Bulletin, at which point she reiterated she still didn't know the level of involvement Myrick had with the Sheriff's office.

What she did feel certain of was that more could have been done.

"They should have. They should have. I mean even after the firebomb. There should have been some kind of protection."

Turner noted his department was aware of the firebomb incident. He added it occurred in Walla Walla Police's jurisdiction, and additional patrols were requested.

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