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Murder suspect appears in court days after man’s body recovered in Washougal

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:
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Randy John Schmidt, 47, appears Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Clark County Superior Court to face an allegation of second-degree murder in the death of 52-year-old Michael Chad Holmes of Camas. Schmidt asked the judge to appoint him a defense attorney because his family has abandoned him, he said.
Randy John Schmidt, 47, appears Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Clark County Superior Court to face an allegation of second-degree murder in the death of 52-year-old Michael Chad Holmes of Camas. Schmidt asked the judge to appoint him a defense attorney because his family has abandoned him, he said. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A suspect in the slaying of a Camas man who went missing in February appeared Wednesday morning in Clark County Superior Court, a day after his arrest.

Camas’ Randy John Schmidt, 47, faces an allegation of second-degree murder in the death of 52-year-old Michael Chad Holmes, who went by Chad.

Judge Daniel Stahnke set Schmidt’s bail at $750,000. Schmidt will be arraigned April 18.

Holmes was last seen by family around 3 p.m. Feb. 5 when he left his home on Northeast 94th Street and got into Schmidt’s tan GMC Yukon, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case. The two men were neighbors, court records say.

An hour after Holmes left with Schmidt, family members sent him a message asking where he was and letting him know his pregnant dog was in labor. Holmes didn’t respond, which they thought was odd because he was unlikely to miss the births of his dog’s puppies, according to the affidavit.

“Chad Holmes left behind several items like his wallet, puppies and dinner he was cooking on the stove,” the affidavit says.

Three hours had passed when Schmidt showed up at Holmes’ doorstep. He told family there that Holmes got out of his vehicle near the intersection of Riley and Blair roads and walked away, according to the affidavit.

“Witnesses report Randy Schmidt was acting unusual the day Michael Chad Holmes disappeared. They claim Randy’s story about what happened after picking up Chad has changed several times. Randy was also seen driving a different vehicle (a white Isuzu SUV) and wearing different clothes when he returned to the house,” the affidavit says.

In an initial interview with detectives, Schmidt said he dropped off Holmes on the side of the road before driving to a Ridgefield property and parking his SUV. He said he sold the vehicle a day or two later, but he claimed to not know the identities of the buyers or have paperwork for the transaction, the affidavit says.

Clark County sheriff’s Detective Adam Beck, who wrote the probable cause affidavit, tied Schmidt to the GMC Yukon: A witness said Schmidt parked the vehicle in Ridgefield the week Holmes went missing; multiple people described damage on the SUV as matching damage seen on the vehicle Holmes got into; and the former owner of the SUV said he sold it to Schmidt.

Deputies found the GMC Yukon in March submerged in the Lewis River, not far from the location where Schmidt said he sold it to strangers a few weeks earlier, according to the affidavit.

Investigators concluded that whoever decided to put the SUV under water was trying to hide evidence. They located blood stains on the front passenger’s seat that returned a DNA match to Holmes, court records say.

Data collected through a search warrant placed Schmidt near the river where the vehicle was recovered, the affidavit says.

The narrative of the affidavit suggests detectives continued to collect information on Schmidt following the recovery of the SUV. They found he had shot at an occupied vehicle trespassing on his property in 2012, and shot open storage containers belonging to Holmes and took the contents in December 2018.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu noted Wednesday that Schmidt “has a history of using firearms” in asking the judge to impose $1 million bail.

The investigation came to a head Saturday when kayakers on Washougal River called police after finding a body in the river. Deputies recovered whom they believed to be Holmes, based on his physique and clothing, near Hathaway Park, according to the affidavit.

The man “has an apparent traumatic injury to his head. Metal fragments in his skull likely from bullet projectiles,” the affidavit says.

SWAT officers served warrants Tuesday morning and arrested Schmidt. Once in custody, he changed his story. He said he was in a struggle with Holmes in the front seat of the SUV when a shotgun on the floor accidentally went off, according to the affidavit.

“Afterwards, Randy said he panicked and moved Chad’s body in the Washougal River. …Randy told us the incident was an accident, and he did not intend to kill Chad Holmes,” the affidavit says.

During Schmidt’s hearing, Vu, the prosecutor, said Schmidt went through a number of extensive steps to hide evidence.

“He has interfered and will continue to interfere with the administration of justice,” Vu said.

Schmidt told the judge he no longer has the funds to hire an attorney and was appointed one.

“I have been abandoned by my family,” he said.

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