A Vancouver man originally accused of setting a car on fire with human remains inside in his Hazel Dell driveway in August is now facing a murder allegation.
Investigators say Logan Melchert killed his roommate, identified in court records as 38-year-old Khalid Al-Hassan, in July and then burned the body in Cowlitz County and then at the Hazel Dell house to try to hide the crime.
Melchert, 35, appeared Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree murder. He initially appeared in the case in August and is already facing second-degree arson and unlawful disposal of human remains.
Judge David Gregerson increased Melchert’s bail from $1 million to $1.5 million.
An updated probable cause affidavit states an inmate overheard Melchert talking about the incident to others at the Clark County Jail. That inmate then reported the information to detectives Sept. 28.
Melchert apparently described Al-Hassan as his brother-in-law. He told inmates he killed Al-Hassan because when Melchert’s father died earlier this year, he left everything to Melchert’s sister. His sister had recently been in poor health, he said, and if she died, everything would go to Al-Hassan. He said he “couldn’t allow that to happen,” according to the affidavit.
A representative for Al-Hassan’s family told The Columbian he was never married to Melchert’s sister; they previously dated.
The missing person investigation began Aug. 8 when Al-Hassan’s mother traveled from New Jersey to Vancouver to report her son missing. She said she hadn’t heard from him in about two weeks, which was unusual. She told Clark County sheriff’s deputies she last knew him to be living at 7204 N.W. Overlook Drive with Melchert and his sister. She said Melchert’s father died earlier this year, leaving the three of them living at the house, court records state. Deputies initially couldn’t contact Melchert, his sister or Al-Hassan.
Then, Clark County Fire District 6 responded at 1:34 a.m. Aug. 19 to the house for a Kia Soul on fire behind a gate in the driveway. They contacted Melchert in the yard, and he refused to let them onto the property; firefighters said he threatened to have his aggressive dogs bite them. The firefighters watched from the street as he put out the car fire with a garden hose, the affidavit states.
On Aug. 21, Al-Hassan’s mother again contacted the sheriff’s office and said she still hadn’t heard from her son. A deputy went to the house on Overlook Drive, and he saw the burned Kia Soul behind the fence. The deputy said he saw a man, later identified as Melchert, in the yard walking toward the vehicle with a shovel, according to court records.
The deputy said Melchert told him he’d seen his roommate five to seven days ago and that his roommate had set his car on fire and then left, the affidavit states.
While the deputy was talking to Melchert, he smelled a strong odor, and he later contacted detectives with the Major Crimes Unit, according to court records. The deputy arrested Melchert on an outstanding warrant out of Oregon.
When detectives arrived, they said they could smell a strong odor of decomposition from where the burned Kia Soul was parked. The Kia was registered to Melchert’s father, investigators said.
When they searched the vehicle, detectives found human remains in the backseat under a tarp, according to the affidavit.
The Washington State Patrol Crime Scene Response Team and a federal arson investigator responded to assist. Investigators from the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office recovered the remains, which they identified to be those of a man. They said due to the advanced decomposition, the man had been dead long before the remains were burned, court records state.
Detectives also searched a backpack Melchert was wearing when he was arrested. Inside, they found two lighters, two butane torches and a can of butane fuel, the affidavit states.
Detectives also searched Melchert’s phone. They found internet search history between July 26 and Aug. 9 about fire, how to remove the backseat of a Kia Soul, the time it takes for a body to decompose and how to eliminate strong odors, according to the affidavit.
Melchert initially declined to speak with detectives, but he changed his mind days later and shared conflicting stories of what happened.
He said Al-Hassan was no longer living at the Hazel Dell house and came over to borrow the Kia Soul. Melchert refused, and a physical altercation ensued. Al-Hassan eventually left, Melchert said, and then he heard a loud bang and saw the car on fire. He said firefighters arrived, but he didn’t want his dogs to bite them, so he put out the fire with a garden hose. The next day, he saw bones in the backseat of the car, he said, and didn’t know what to do. He said Al-Hassan died by suicide, the affidavit states.
During the investigation, detectives learned the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office was investigating a suspicious fire July 27 on an unoccupied property in Longview that belonged to the Melcherts, court records state. Al-Hassan had been missing for about a week at that time.
Initially, investigators believed that fire was caused by an out-of-control campfire. They found the remains of a tent or tarp, used fire extinguisher, lighter fluid and a sword with Melchert’s name handwritten on it, the affidavit says.
Also on the property, investigators found a burned Apple watch. A detection dog found a burned human foot and pieces of bones. Forensic testing determined the remains on the Longview property matched the remains found on the Hazel Dell property. Dental records confirmed it was Al-Hassan, court records state.
The inmate who later spoke with detectives said Melchert told him he shot Al-Hassan with a .22 caliber firearm at the Hazel Dell house, but he didn’t die. The two wrestled, and the altercation moved outside where Al-Hassan yelled for help. Melchert then put Al-Hassan in a chokehold and dragged his body away, according to the affidavit.
Melchert told the inmate he was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time. He also said he later took Al-Hassan’s body to another property to incinerate it, but a loose ember started a fire on the property. He then brought the body back to the Hazel Dell house, court records say.
Detectives said the inmate knew details of the incident that had not yet been publicly released.