Police have arrested a man suspected in the 2015 death of Devan Schmidt.
The 47-year-old was booked into King County Jail Thursday afternoon as part of a homicide investigation, according to jail records.
The suspect has not yet been charged. Bail was denied.
Five years ago this month, the 29-year-old Schmidt was found dead in the Madison Valley home she shared with roommates. The medical examiner said circumstances around her 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. Schmidt’s family said drugs found in her system complicated the investigation.
Derrick Levasseur, the host of a true crime series that featured Schmidt’s death last year with cooperation of the victim’s family and local investigators including SPD Detective James Cooper, announced the arrest Thursday night:
I can now announce that Eric Sims, the man identified on ‘Breaking Homicide’, was arrested today for the murder of Devan Schmidt. I would like to thank the Seattle Police Department for their cooperation and most importantly, I would like to thank you, the fans, for making calls, emails, and helping to keep Devan’s name alive.
Fans of the show and Schmidt’s family followed the broadcast with phone calls, letters, and emails lobbying for a new investigation of the woman’s death, something police said was needed so they could pursue a criminal investigation.
Three years ago, CHS found Eric Sims was wrapping up a year in jail after pleading guilty to malicious mischief in a burglary case as well as violating a protection order. His 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 read. His whereabouts were known as late as May of 2018 when he received a fare enforcement ticket at the Pioneer Square light rail station. Though he told the enforcement officer he was homeless, Sims provided a 22nd Ave address.
In 2017, CHS reported on findings from an independent expert who disagreed with the medical examiner and found that Schmidt was likely murdered.
Schmidt’s sister Lia Kendall shared findings from the expert’s report with CHS including details of the night before her death as Schmidt hung out with two friends and, briefly, an acquaintance who had given the friends a ride and returned unexpectedly later in the night after the gathering had ended:
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.”
What changed in the investigation and why Sims has now been arrested has not been officially announced. Det. Cooper told Levasseur that the ruling on Schmidt’s cause of death had hampered any criminal investigation. CHS will have more if charges are filed and as we learn more about the arrest.
Family and loved ones had planned a memorial gathering for earlier this month to remember Schmidt and to hopefully renew attention on the case. That gathering had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
The Breaking Homicide “Death at Dawn” episode can be viewed here.
UPDATE 11:58 AM: SPD has posted a brief on the arrest:
Detectives have been working closely with the King County Prosecutor’s Office and yesterday were able to interview the 47-year-old male suspect. Following the interview, the suspect was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of murder.
UPDATE x2: Kendall tells CHS she is thankful that the investigation is finally moving forward:
I would say that we are extremely happy that he has been arrested & we would like to say thank you to Detective Cooper the SPD for never giving up & to Derrick Levasseur & his team from Breaking Homicide for everything they did to help bring my sister’s story to the forefront. & thank you for your reporting over the years.
UPDATE x3: Eric Sims has been charged with second degree murder.
In court documents, prosecutors say Sims ‘shamelessly and boldly” lied about the incident and was “confident he had gotten away with murder” —
Police say existing evidence gathered in the wake of the 2015 death including injuries to Schmidt’s body and the large amount of drugs found in her system are proof Sims was not truthful to police and had returned after the night of partying:
In the documents, police describe the group partying with wine and cocaine until around dawn when Schmidt’s two friends and Sims left in separate vehicles. Not long after, police say Schmidt contacted her friends and said Sims had returned. “Your boy is here what’s the best way to get rid of him?” she reportedly said. Schmidt told her friends she didn’t need help and could handle it. It was the last they heard from her.
Police say Schmidt was found by a roommate just before 11 AM dead on her room floor. In addition to a lethal level of cocaine and drugs found swallowed in her stomach, the medical examiner, police, say also found injuries that indicated someone had been on top of her while she was face down:
Saliva containing Sims’ DNA was located on Schmidt’s front neck, right wrist, and right-hand fingernail clippings and police say the examiner found indications of “the presence of sperm without semen, from a male who has had a vasectomy.” Sims’ wife told investigators that he has had a vasectomy, according to the documents.
Despite the injuries and DNA evidence, the medical examiner ruled the official cause as undetermined. Police and prosecutors say the injuries and the circumstances of her death paint a different picture — that Sims returned to Schmidt’s home after her friends had left, “remained there for approximately an hour, assaulted her in various ways, and caused her death.”
Sims told detectives that Schmidt provided him with powerful cocaine and that he was “very inexperienced” with the drug and had only recently started using. Sims told police her coke was better than the stuff he had and that he texted her the morning of her death to ask where she got it but never heard back. “Sims misrepresented his experience with cocaine when he gave his initial statement to police officers at the East Precinct,” the SPD report reads. “He was convicted for Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act in 1991 (twice), 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999 (twice), and 2003.”
In a search of Schmidt’s room, they found only a “microscopic residue” of cocaine. Police were also unable to locate her prescription medication or the bottle of sleep aid.
In 2017, CHS was contacted by Sims after our story on the lack of progress in the case. “The story posted here is one sided and missing the actions of this Beautiful person who I believed took her own life,” Sims wrote.
Sims told CHS he had a nonviolent criminal history — “I did my time for the mistakes I made,” he said.
Sims also professed innocence. ” I am sorry that this happen, and if I was responsible I would not be here to say this,” he wrote. “No way can a common drug addict pull off what you claim.”
“Most important, I am sorry for the family lost, and a Beautiful (person’s) death. I am a father, brother and could only imagine the pain and dreams.”
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