Family of Devan Schmidt, the 29-year-old found dead in a Madison Valley home in 2015, say they have proof she was murdered but the case is not moving forward because the victim was a young woman found with drugs in her system.
“If a young woman has drugs in her system and she is raped and murdered in Seattle… it’s just going to be written off as undetermined?,” Lia Kendall asks. The victim’s sister, provided CHS with the findings of a renowned forensic pathologist and toxicologist expert who says the death “is most likely a homicide.”
“The findings at the autopsy point to it, the findings at the scene support it and the circumstantial evidence is almost compelling,” the expert wrote in a July 2017 letter to Kendall shared with CHS in which the pathologist offers to take part in possible legal proceedings in the case. CHS is not identifying the expert because Kendall agreed not to make his involvement in the case public until there is an arrest and charges. Kendall says the investigator has offered his services at no charge.
On the morning of May 2nd, Schmidt was found unconscious by a housemate. The roommate called 911 and was guided through CPR. Seattle Fire medics rushed to the house near E Denny Way and 29th Ave E but pronounced Schmidt dead at the scene. The case troubled the medical examiner who wrote that circumstances around the death were “concerning for homicidal violence,” and asphyxia “could not be ruled out.”
The county investigator also noted “superficial blunt force injuries” to Schmidt’s head, torso, and limbs, but authorities were ultimately unable to determine a cause and manner of death.
Kendall tells CHS the “undetermined” findings were caused by the presence of drugs found in Schmidt’s system at the time of her death. “I believe from Day One, the prosecutor had an inability to move forward because of the toxicology report. Our expert says the drugs that were in her system are irrelevant and did not kill her or cause her death,” Kendall said.
“The injuries that she sustained are very extensive,” Kendall said. “They point to two things: rape and homicide.”
A spokesperson told CHS that representatives for the county prosecutor would not comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing.
This summer, Kendall, who lives in Florida, told friends and loved ones about the pathologist’s findings. “I had so many messages from people asking, ‘what is wrong with the legal system? Doesn’t Seattle care?'”
But if the expert’s findings are true, who did it? Kendall says police know. Schmidt was with a good friend and her boyfriend the night before her death, hanging out and watching a movie. An acquaintance had given the couple a ride to Schmidt’s house, came in with them, and stayed awhile. The couple left shortly after he did. The family says that Schmidt’s text messages show that the man, a stranger before that night, had returned uninvited and totally unexpected which greatly alarmed her.
“He was the last known person to be with my sister,” she said. “He changed his story to police.”
The man is currently wrapping up a year in jail after pleading guilty to malicious mischief in a burglary case as well as violating a protection order. His extensive record includes convictions for assault, burglary, drug charges, and domestic violence. “Since 1998, courts have issued 7 orders of protection for 5 different victims,” one charging document from a 2016 case notes. Police say the man resided at a Central District address near 23rd and Yesler at the time of his 2016 arrest.
While he may currently be off the streets, Kendall says she and her family are worried there won’t be any changes in the investigation before the man’s scheduled release date in December. The family is doing what it can to move things forward. Kendall shared this letter with CHS from Devan’s mother Pam Schmidt to prosecuting attorney Julie Kline:
With the caseload you must have, I hope you’ve taken a little time to enjoy autumn. The foliage is finally exploding into a myriad of bright colors here in Wisconsin where I grew up and where Devan spent most of her formative years. Being here in the country enables me to be alone in nature whenever I please by just walking out my back door. The peace can significantly help me sort things out.
Even though Devan was by far THE most adaptable person I’ve known, she was most at home entrenched in nature as well, which is why she loved being in the wide expanses of Alaska. Unfortunately, while following her heart to be with the man she mistakenly thought might be “the one,” she ended up taking a wrong turn into what she thought would be a temporary residence in your city.
Ms Kline, I’ve spent too many hours over the course of too many days laboring over what I wanted to say to you in this letter. Each attempt was thwarted for one reason or another until I was moved in spirit to talk to you as if you were just a regular person instead of the Prosecuting Attorney in my youngest daughter’s murder case.
I’ll be as succinct as possible. Devan Chanel Schmidt was an extraordinary person with the attitude that she could climb any mountain and would help anyone else that wanted to go along. Heck, she’d help people that were afraid of climbing the doggone mountain believe they could climb it themselves! She carried light everywhere she went, even in the dark corners. Like me, she looked for the best in people so was probably too trusting which may have had something to do with her demise.
I was so blessed to have been the vessel through which she came into this world. I taught her to find the beauty and that her cup was never half empty but that it was overflowing. Her last words to me 4 days before her murder were, “Don’t cry momma, everything’s gonna be alright. I love you so very much….”
I don’t understand so many things about how this case has been handled. Following are just a few:
Why you don’t need XXX to testify
Why XXX declared undetermined and refuses to even talk with XXX about his take
Why our !st and only advocate was removed from our service and then, never replaced
Why we weren’t allowed to hear the 911 call
Why most of Lia’s and my phone calls are never returned; since the beginning
Why you haven’t even charged XXX yet
Why is this taking so long when you know who did it and he’ll be out before Christmas
Why Lia was told there was enough evidence if we got an M.E. to do what XXX is willing to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Julie, I don’t know if you’re a mother, but I BESEECH you, PLEASE be our hero, PLEASE convict the monster that snuffed out Devan’s light before he does it to someone elses’s baby girl, and get him a sentence so he NEVER can… please
Devan’s mom, Pam
For now, the family can do little more than plead with the King County Prosecutor’s office to take action in the case.
Thursday night brings the annual Runway to Freedom fashion and music fundraiser to support families affected by domestic violence to Seattle. To honor Devan Schmidt, her family tells us housemate Jesse Marshall and his My Sweet Lil Cakes business are donating a $500 gift card to the charity auction. You can learn more at runwaytofreedom.org.