Family seeks justice in unsolved death of Madison Valley woman

Nothing prepared Lia Kendall to learn of the sudden death of her younger sister in a Madison Valley home last year. Ten months later, Kendall is in the midst of another unforeseen nightmare: the prospect that the person she believes is responsible for the death of Devan Schmidt may never be charged.

Even though Seattle Police detectives opened an investigation into the May 2nd, 2015 death and crime scene investigators collected evidence at the home, no suspects were ever publicly identified. Schmidt’s family hired a private investigator, leading Kendall to develop a “good idea” of how her sister died and who was responsible. Still, no arrests were made.

Kendall said she was sure a King County Medical Examiner’s report would show the 29-year-old’s death was the result of a homicide, giving detectives a boost in the case. When the report finally came back in September, it 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 was beside herself.

“It was very obvious to us this was not accidental. We were very confused,” Kendall said.

It turns out medical examiners had their suspicions, too. In a partial copy of Schmidt’s autopsy report obtained by CHS, the medical examiner notes “the scene investigation and circumstances surrounding her death are concerning for homicidal violence.”

Last week, Schmidt’s friends and family launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 to have a private medical examiner reevaluate the death. Funds may also be used towards hiring an attorney to advise the family. Seattle police say a homicide investigation remains open and ongoing. So far, the donations have been slow to come — only $650 has been pledged in the first two weeks of the campaign.

Receiving her sister’s final autopsy report raised far more questions than it answered for Kendall. She began her own research into autopsies, looking for the most likely causes of injuries she felt were overlooked in her sister’s death investigation.“They couldn’t explain specific things that we saw that we hope the new medical examiner can,” Kendall said.

On the morning of May 2nd, Schmidt was found unconscious by her housemate Jesse Lee Marshall. Marshall called 911 and was guided through CPR. Seattle Fire medics rushed to their house near E Denny Way and 29th Ave E, but pronounced Schmidt dead at the scene. There were no reported signs of fatal trauma or a struggle.

“It’s scary, it’s a mystery,” Marshall told CHS.

Schmidt arrived in Seattle in 2014 from her adopted home in Alaska to be with her boyfriend while he attended college. While she enjoyed the city, Kendall said her sister was smitten with life in Alaska and planned to return to snowboarding and hiking as soon as her boyfriend finished school. Schmidt worked in the service industry in Alaska and was a server for the Alaska Railroad. In Seattle, she worked for a downtown comedy club.

Amid the outpouring of grief and memories posted online in the days following Schmidt’s death, friends and family frequently wrote about the young woman’s infectious laugh and sense of adventure.

“My sister deserves justice,” Kendall said. “Our family deserves some time type of closure.”

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3 thoughts on “Family seeks justice in unsolved death of Madison Valley woman

  1. “Seattle police say a homicide investigation remains open and ongoing.”

    No offense but, I don’t get what the big deal is then?

    • There are many cases that remain ‘open and ongoing’ however, a vast majority of those cases begin to collect dust and the guilty party/parties are never charged. Due to budgets and heavy case loads there are a lot of cases that can’t be worked as heavily as they need to be if no one is caught within the first few months. The medical examiner’s report can leave much to still be in question and even if the medical examiner has a good hunch as to how a person dies they can’t state it on paper without 100% physical evidence. It can get very complicated. So, in closing, this is a big deal.