Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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Evergreen High student, 14, found dead in basement of Lincoln home

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An investigator with the Vancouver Police Department removes items from a duplex near Lincoln Elementary School where a 14-year-old girl was found dead early Wednesday morning.
An investigator with the Vancouver Police Department removes items from a duplex near Lincoln Elementary School where a 14-year-old girl was found dead early Wednesday morning. (JEREMIAH COUGHLAN/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A 14-year-old girl was found dead at a Lincoln neighborhood duplex early Wednesday morning.

Vancouver police officers initially responded to the report of a burglary at 4010 Daniels St. shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. Officers were met by three adult men who told them an intruder was in the basement.

Instead of a burglar, officers discovered the body of the girl.

Her name was not released but Chief Brian Martinek said the victim was a freshman at Evergreen High School. One of her biological parents lives outside the state, possibly on the East Coast, Martinek said during an early evening briefing at the crime scene. The family asked that the name of the victim be withheld, Martinek said.

Administrators with Evergreen Public Schools have been notified and given the name, however, in order to assist students who may be traumatized by the death.

Martinek said there were no visible indications of how she died, such as a gunshot or stabbing wound. An autopsy was completed on Wednesday but the cause of death was unavailable. Martinek said officials were waiting for toxicology tests.

“We’re treating it as a homicide,” Martinek said. When asked if the girl died from alcohol poisoning, Martinek responded that “everything is possible” at this stage in the investigation.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “It’s a young girl who died in a tragic manner.”

Neighbors said a resident of the home, described as a man in his 40s or 50s, often had groups of teens over at his home.

The resident’s landlord, Ron Thornsbury of Camas, identified the renter as Roy Russell.

Thornsbury said Russell started renting the duplex in June and was supposed to be the only person living there. Thornsbury said he believed Russell worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman who demonstrated the equipment in people’s homes.

Police said the girl was visiting but did not live at the duplex. She was not listed as a runaway or in foster care, Martinek said, responding to media questions.

“Detectives believe that she was part of a group of people who were visiting the home earlier in the evening. Her exact association with the residents of the home is unknown at this time,” said police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.

Police would not say if Russell was one of three “persons of interest” in the case.

Natalie Scott, who lives nearby, said there were often loud parties with both teen boys and girls in attendance. While she was surprised to see crime scene tape when she woke up Wednesday morning, Scott was not surprised to hear something bad had happened at that address.

“If anything would happen, it would be there,” she said.

Thornsbury said he had received complaints from neighbors about loud parties at the homes. He called to warn Russell.

“I didn’t get any more complaints,” Thornsbury said.

He did a background check of Russell before renting to him. While the check did reveal some past criminal history, Thornsbury said he overlooked it because Russell had been honest about it and it happened several years ago.

A records check revealed that a Roy Wayne Russell Jr., 45, served an undetermined sentence for assault in Clark County.

Thornsbury said the police had not told him the name of the victim.

Another neighbor reported that something seemed “not right” about Russell and the home. The home seemed to accumulate a lot of garbage, particularly a large volume of beer bottles. Like Scott, she also saw a lot of teens over at the house.

During the evening briefing, Martinek said officers had gathered information and would be investigating. He said the police had not been called to the home in the recent past.

Martinek said he was dubious that a burglary had actually occurred at the home. Officer Ron Stevens elaborated by saying there was no evidence of a burglary.

The section of Daniels Street between 40th and 41st Streets was blocked off by patrol cars and bright yellow crime scene tape for most of the day while the house was being searched. Officials at Lincoln Elementary, just across 41st Street from the crime scene, were notified and students walking to class were detoured around the area. The Vancouver School District sent a note home to parents that read in part, “The police assured the district that there is no danger to students at nearby schools.”

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