Thursday, November 26, 2020
Nov. 26, 2020

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Vancouver man found guilty in fatal Quik Chek shooting in Kelso

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D'Anthony Leslie Williams
D'Anthony Leslie Williams Photo Gallery

LONGVIEW — A Cowlitz County jury Thursday convicted D’Anthony Williams of Vancouver of robbing and fatally shooting Holt’s Quik Chek Market cashier Kayla Chapman in January 2019.

After a week-and-a-half trial, jurors deliberated for less than three hours before arriving at a verdict Nov. 12, which was announced in the early evening at the Cowlitz County Event Center, set up to hold jury trials during the coronavirus pandemic.

Williams, 20, was found guilty on all but one charge. He was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder with a firearm, first-degree murder in the course of another crime, first-degree robbery with a firearm, first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm (a 9 millimeter handgun) and possession of methamphetamine. The jury found Williams not guilty of second-degree taking a vehicle without permission.

Williams was accused of robbing Kelso cashier 30-year-old Chapman at gunpoint before fatally shooting her at point-blank range in the early hours of Jan. 22, 2019.

Police believe Williams and two companions, Erkinson Kinisou Bossy and Nenemeny Winter Ekiek, came to Kelso for a drug deal that proved to be unsuccessful, then decided to look for a store to rob, according to court documents.

The trial concluded with closing statements Thursday, during which Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Bentson outlined each charge and said how the “overabundance” of evidence — including Facebook messages, video surveillance, DNA samples and cellphone mapping — linked Williams to the crime.

Defense attorney Joshua Baldwin, reiterating the theme of his opening statement, said the question wasn’t if the crime was committed, but who did it.

Bentson asked the jury to consider all the evidence together, not just one piece.

“There’s overwhelming evidence the person who murdered Kayla Chapman is sitting in this room,” he said.

Facebook messages between Williams and Hali Morales, a Vancouver woman who said Williams took her car without permission on Jan. 17, link him to the white 2013 Hyundai Sonata in the Holt’s surveillance video, Bentson said.

The evening after the shooting, detectives contacted Morales and she identified both the vehicle and Williams in photographs provided by police, according to court documents.

Williams’ girlfriend, Bethany Collins, identified the backpack used by the gunman, which was later found in Morales’ car, as hers, Benston said.

Bentson said testimony from Kelso Police Sgt. Kirk Wiper indicated the gunman in the video was anticipating the recoil multiple times based on his motions, shows the murder was premeditated.

“If he was just trying to rob her, why doesn’t he just grab the loot and go?” Bentson said.

A DNA sample taken from a spot on the Holt’s counter where the gunman touched included Williams’ DNA, Bentson said.

The gunman was wearing clothes that look like what Williams was wearing in Walmart surveillance video later that morning, Bentson said. A photo of Williams’ hands show a scar on the back of his left hand and a callous or other mark on his right thumb, and the gunman appears to have similar marks, he said.

The FBI Cellular Analysis Survey Team (CAST) report mapping Williams’ cellphone location, showed it in Vancouver, moving north on Interstate 5 to the Longview Kelso area, at the Indy Way Diner, at Holt’s and driving south at times consistent with the crime, Bentson said.

The scientific evidence corroborates testimony from witnesses identifying Williams from the video or placing him at the crime scene, Bentson said.

Williams’ probation officer, who has known the defendant since Williams was 12, identified him as the gunman from the surveillance video, according to court records. The records also state that Williams’ mother alerted the probation officer that the robber may have been her son.

Police found Chapman’s iPhone at Williams’ girlfriend’s house when they searched it after arresting Williams, according to court documents.

Defense attorney Baldwin pointed to several points he said show that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams was the gunman.

The evidence doesn’t support Williams’ taking Morales’ car as part of a plan because it was taken days before and it wasn’t clear that he took it without permission, as he was seen driving it several times, Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the Newport cigarettes found on Williams when he was arrested and in the Hyundai were had a different tax identification number than the box taken from the store by police to compare to.

The surveillance video from Holt’s doesn’t consistently show scars and marks on the gunman’s hands to match those on Williams’ hands, he said.

Williams’ DNA was not on the gun, Baldwin said, and the clothing does not match perfectly.

Baldwin also told the jury to consider witness testimony, “with a grain of salt,” and that Ekiek’s and Bossy’s testimony had inconsistencies. The two also will be allowed to enter new pleas to lesser charges in exchange for testifying in Williams’ trial.

“When you look at all these things, I think you end up in one place,” he said. “They haven’t proven Mr. Williams was the guy.”

Bentson argued that Bossy and Ekiek admitted to the crimes before the deal with prosecution.

“They were in on a murder and robbery, but it was the defendant’s decision alone to pull the trigger and kill Kayla Chapman,” he said.

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