Category Archives: Tacoma Homicides

10th Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Devondre D. Davis

Devondre D. Davis

At some point on Wednesday, September 7th, 16-year-old Devondre D. Davis went to the apartment of 20-year-old Anthony Clark on Tacoma’s East Side. Clark has given various accounts of why Devondre was there and what happened what he got there. What is known is that sometime after Devondre arrived he was  shot in the back of the head likely while near the bedroom closet.

Devondre’s body was found in a garbage bin in the 500 block of East 36th Street. Neighbors say Clark asked him if he could dispose of a body in the garbage bin. They then alerted members of the Tacoma Police Department’s Anti-Gang task force who were nearby on an unrelated call.

This tenth Tacoma homicide of 2011 is such a senseless waste of life that I actually have trouble writing about it. This is the second teenager murdered in Tacoma in the last two weeks. Here’s hoping this streak stops now.

Tacoma’s East Side has had its share of violence. Like the rest of Tacoma, it has improved over the years. Much like Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, the East Side is held together by proud citizens who do not accept that this sort of violence has to be a part of their neighborhood.

We may never know the reason Devondre was shot and killed. In many ways, it doesn’t matter why. There isn’t a reason that is justifiable for what happened to him. It is a crime and a tragedy.

Devondre may be gone, but he is remembered. A Facebook Page has been posted in his memory. You can find it here: http://on.fb.me/nLJlg7.

You can also post comments below if you like. My thoughts go out to Devondre’s friends and family.

- Jack Cameron

Ninth Homicide of 2011 – Billy Shirley III

On the second floor of a building just off of Center Street, the After Party was getting intense in the early hours of Saturday morning. This wasn’t just a guy inviting people back to his place for a few drinks. This place had bouncers. There were even guys with flashlights to tell you where to park when it got busy. The Friday night after party was far from the first one to happen here.

Seventeen year old Billy Shirley arrived there just before 5:00am. He wasn’t there to party. He was there to check on someone. Unconfirmed reports say he was there to pick up his mother. Billy wasn’t the late night after party type. Last April he was profiled in The News Tribune as part of a volunteer group called ‘Peace Out’. What happened next is still under investigation. There was an argument between Billy and someone else. Some witnesses say there Billy became involved in a brawl. What’s clear is that as Billy was leaving he was shot at least twice in the back. When the paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive him. As the sun rose on the City of Tacoma, Billy Shirley III became its ninth homicide victim for 2011.

Tacoma had managed to go most of the summer without a homicide. Our last one was in June. There was a recent shooting near Tacoma General Hospital almost a week ago, but the victim was uncooperative and his wounds were not life threatening.

Billy was about to begin his senior year at Curtis High School. From his involvement in Peace Out and various comments online, it sounds like he was a good kid who was interested in giving back to the community. It’s an unfortunate tragedy in the City of Destiny. He will not be forgotten.

After Parties are nothing new in Tacoma. Neither are illegal night clubs. One could argue that since this place had been having parties for months without a major incident that it wasn’t a big deal. However, one could just as easily argue that something like this was bound to happen in a place like that. That area of Center Street is mostly an industrial area. They likely didn’t get too many noise complaints regardless of how loud they were.

With the death of Billy Shirley, it’s safe to say that the After Party is over. At least in that location. The Tacoma Police Department continue to investigate and would like to talk to anyone who left the party before the police arrived.

-          Jack Cameron

Related Links:

Peace Out: http://www.mypeaceout.org/

TNT’s Profile of Billy Shirley: http://bit.ly/nU6UCr

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Cold Case Detective Gene Miller

Many years ago I worked in police records at the Law Enforcement Support Agency. I spent my day transcribing police records and deciphering handwriting on police reports usually written on clipboards in a squad car. At the office, there were aisles of folders from all sorts of cases. However, at the end of the aisles, on a bookshelf, there were a group of accordion files bigger than most of the other ones. Many of them were red. I asked what they were. Someone told me that those were the unsolved homicide cases. Thinking how each one of those represented a human life that had been taken by someone who was still out there haunted me. It’s one of the reasons that when I started my first website about Tacoma, I started writing about every homicide that happened in Tacoma.

Detective Gene Miller is in charge of the Tacoma Police Department’s Cold Case Unit. Many cities don’t even have a Cold Case Unit. Tacoma just started this unit last April. Detective Miller keeps these cases from just being folders on a shelf and he took time out of his day to join me for 5 Question Friday.

1. How did you get started in the Tacoma Police Department?

I was born and raised in Tacoma.  I became interested in law enforcement while at WSU and was hired by the Enumclaw Police Department after college.  When the opportunity presented itself in 1985, I transferred here to Tacoma which is where I ultimately wanted to be.

2. You now head up the Cold Case Unit of the Tacoma Police Department. What interests you in Cold Cases in particular?

I firmly believe that someone needs to continue to speak for the victims of these cases and for the families left behind to deal with the loss.  The citizens of Tacoma need to know these cases are not forgotten and the killers yet to be caught need to know that as well.

3. What tools are now available that give you advantages in solving Cold Cases?

The keys to solving cold case homicides are technology and time.  The scientists at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab are my best friends.  What they bring to the table is HUGE in the resolution of many of these cases.  Time is a big thing as well because I have the benefit of seeing who people are today.  Bad guys may have been able to hide under a rock back then but, more often than not, they will have raised their heads and gotten caught being who they are.  That historical perspective is effective in rooting out the suspect in many investigations.

4. What is one of the biggest misconceptions that the public has about homicide investigations?

The biggest misconception is that we live in a CSI (television) world.  The reality is just because someone touches something doesn’t mean they are going to leave a useable print.  Suspects do not always leave DNA and even if they do, it can take months before we get any lab results.  Also, some of the technology people see on TV only exists in some writers mind.  A good percentage of the other technology only exists at the state level where it is shared by several agencies, all of which are competing for its time.

5. What Cold Cases are you currently working on?

The unit has 192 cases that date back to 1961. All of these cases are open for investigation and varying levels of work occur on each case throughout the year to include the submittal of evidence etc. The unit also actively pursues certain investigations more vigorously based on a variety of factors. Due to the sensitive nature of law enforcement investigations I am not in a position to give you any particular details. Ultimately, you’ll know the answer to this question shortly after the person responsible for the murder finds out.

Thanks to the Tacoma Police Department and Detective Gene Miller for participating in 5 Question Friday.

As always if you or someone you know is interested in doing a 5 Question Friday interview, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

Visions of Tony

Tony McDougald

Tony McDougald

I think it’s important to remember people. TacomaStories.com is about the people of Tacoma and how our stories create the city we live in. When it comes to my writing about the homicides in Tacoma, I’m writing about stories that were cut short. They can no longer tell their story so someone has to do it for them.

Earlier this year, Tony McDougald was shot in the back while breaking into the garage of a house near South 38th Street. I personally knew Tony, but had not seen him since Middle School in 1988. Recently, I was approached by someone who was close to him once. She asked that she remain anonymous and wrote about her story of Tony.

I’ve chosen to post this because regardless of anything else, Tony deserves to be remembered. I do not vouch for the authenticity of what she has written. These are her words and memories, not mine but I will say that everything she says sounds like the Tony I remember.

If you have memories of Tony that you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Or if you have something longer to share or if you have anything to write about anyone in or from Tacoma, you can email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading.

-          Jack Cameron

When I first heard that Tony was dead, I was shocked and like many, I had and still have many questions. I first met Tony when we were just kids. Back then his brother was dating my friend and she introduced us. To be honest, I liked him for his attitude at first. I thought he was charming, sweet and funny. All that aside, I really hadn’t seen what his face looked like for the first 2 weeks I knew him. So I can say I honestly liked him for his personality. As timed progressed, I learned he was a renegade of his own kind. A true individual. A guy with a kind heart that would mumble “I love you” with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and then scream the F. word at someone driving past and flip them off. Oh, and did I mention what a sight he was? Yes, many people said “Bon Jovi”. Well if you call ratty, torn, bleached jeans, band t’s and well the “hair”. I suppose he was. Thinking back about how he was just really makes me laugh. He had wanted long hair and his mom wanted him to keep it short. They made a deal. He had to perm his hair or cut it off. Well, of course he opted for the perm. His mom’s plan backfired on her. His perm made him look more like a sheep dog, than a kid. Luckily for me, he wasn’t too bad under that mop of hair. Like many girls before and after me, he was my first love.

I had the chance to really get to know Tony before we started dating. And then during the 8 months or so of our relationship, Tony shared many things with me. He made me laugh, and he made me cry for him and his pain. One of the first secrets he shared with me was that when he was younger, he was a victim of abuse. That was very traumatic for him, as  am sure you can imagine. He also shared with me that his mom wanted a little girl so badly that she named him Anthony Lynn. Not “Len” like all the media has been calling him. God, that had to suck to know he could never be what she truly wanted. But that never stopped him from trying. The day after he had his tonsil’s removed, his mom’s dog, “Willie” got out and was headed for 56th Street. That dog was so stupid it would have ran right into the traffic. Despite the fact that Tony’s throat felt like it was on fire, he ran after that dog. Holy hell, that kid could run. He stopped that dog about three feet from the road. His mom was so happy she cried. It was heart wrenching to see that she was more concerned about her dog than her own son. My heart broke for him.

As you can tell his family was very dysfunctional, his dad was on the road driving most of the time trying to support a family of five. Which left his mom home alone to take care of three boys. She had her hands full with trying to work full time at Sears and taking care of the boys. Tony and I really ended up bonding over having a bad home life. He saved me on more than one occasion. My father would get drunk, and he would become verbally and physically abusive. I had no one to help me. My mom was working and I tried calling the cops. They just told me it was my problem and to call a crisis number to get counseling and “deal with it”. Tony was there to help time and again. Once, Tony banged on the front door to distract my dad so I could sneak out to the garage to hide. My dad always had a gun on him, and Tony knew this but he still chose to take the risk anyway. Yet another time my dad came home plastered and had been in a bar fight. He was angry and was going to take his rifle and go back to the bar with it. Tony stayed on the phone with me for three hours while I hid from him. I was terrified of what he was going to do, but Tony did his best to keep me calm. I could go on and on with examples but I won’t. This is about his tragic life not mine.

Towards the end of our relationship Tony lived with me for about a month. He had a friend over one night and the friend found my dad’s revolver. I freaked out on him and said it was loaded. He then aimed it at Tony and me and we both yelled at him. He pointed it up at the wall, about two feet away from Tony’s head. He pulled the first trigger and nothing happened. He said “Oh it’s fine. The safety is on!” Well if you know anything about a revolver, they have a double pull action trigger before it fires or you cock the hammer then pull the trigger once. There is no safety. As he was proclaiming the safety was on, he shot off a .44 hollow point bullet through the walls of my house and continued through my window. Only God knows where the rest of the bullet went. Because of this incidence, this was the final straw, Tony wanted nothing to do with guns. From what I have heard from others he still felt the same way all these years later. That window never has been fixed. Up until seven years ago I was blamed for it until I finally told my parents the truth about that night.
We had a less than stellar falling out. I found out through others that he had eyes for another girl. I confronted him and it started with him admitting to me he had kissed the girl. I was insulted and hurt.  I lost my temper and punched him in the face. I know it was childish. I am still ashamed of my behavior. So he hit me back and we scrapped for a few seconds in his kitchen. I actually remember thinking, ‘Crap we’re breaking the rules, fist fighting is supposed to be done in the back yard.’ Well then his dad jumped in. UH-OH! I thought I was in trouble! He actually popped Tony in the mouth and screamed at him, “You never hit a girl no matter the reason”. Hell, I felt I deserved it, I started it after all. So I walked out of his life. For forever, or so I thought.

After we parted our ways, I saw him here and there. As the years went by I had heard rumors that he was strung out on drugs. I wanted absolutely no part of that and still felt that way. So when a mutual friend would say that he had asked about me. My reply would always be no,no,no. Don’t you give my number to him. I want no part of that. I would make it very clear that they were not to give him any information out about me. A few years passed and one day he shows up at my work. Great, just fan-fricken-tastic! He ended up being the latest new hire. Well I guess sometimes you have to face your past whether you want to or not. I was married. He had his girl and they had just had a baby. So I made it very clear there would be no round two, now or ever. He was fine with that and we made a mutual agreement that we were there for work and nothing more.

It was during this time that we started talking again, just like the old times. I finally mustered up the balls to ask him why he was strung out and what the hell was he thinking. He basically told me about some hardship he had gone through, how he became so angry he didn’t even know who he was. And some other things. He confessed to me that he was responsible for killing a kid at Jack-In-The-Box. My reaction of course was something like “What in the hell are you talking about?!” He then further explained that he was working at Jack-In-The-Box as the guy who cooked the E-coli burgers. He said, “I was working that day, I killed that kid!” I said “Holy F. you have got to be kidding me.” He just looked up at me with tears in his eyes and shook his head. He sat and cried for a few minutes. He then went on to tell me that he had tried to go to the family to apologize. They told him that he was a murderer and it was his fault, that they hated him and he deserved the same thing. This totally devastated him. At first he tried to tell himself he was just doing his job. But that soon faded. It started with drinking and evolved from there to the hardcore drugs. He said he couldn’t handle having that on his conscience. He got to the point where he didn’t care if he lived or died. After his daughter was born that was the only thing that kept him alive. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. He never lied to me before. I can’t prove one way or another, but I choose to believe him. He truly had a sad life.

Later, I called Tony on the phone when I found out that he had been clean and sober for quite some time and that his band had a cult following. I called to tell him how I was so proud of him and I had missed him (not the drug addict Tony). He bragged about how he was getting married and we laughed. His mom had always wanted us to get married. We laughed about the old times. I’m so glad I got to talk to him that one last time. Apparently this was just a couple of weeks before he found his mom dead, his woman left him, and his band had a falling out. The band was the majority of his support of staying clean. (I am NOT blaming anyone)! The only thing he had left was his daughter and I’m not really sure he got to see her. So again, his whole world came down around him and he did what most people in his situation do. They go back to their old bad habits, because it helps to dull the pain. No one could have stopped him, his path had already been written. My only regret in all of this, is that I never got to see him play a show. He made it. He was a real rock star! He lived by his own rules. He was like so many before him. They made it, then fell.
In closing I just want to say, Tony was a wonderful person with some very bad habits.

R.I.P. Toeknee, I Will Always Love You.

Eighth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Baby Girl McMillen

Last week 20-year-old Melissa Cathryn McMillen gave birth to a baby girl in her bathroom in a house in the 5300 block of North 39th Street. She left the baby in the toilet for 90 minutes and took a shower. According to the medical examiner the baby was alive when she was born. After she had showered, she wrapped the body of the baby and put it in a book bag.

Tuesday night Melissa’s boyfriend arrived home after being gone for a few days. He’d found the baby in the bag and called 911. He said that his girlfriend had given birth to a stillborn a few days ago.

Melissa McMillen has been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

When I write about homicides that happen in Tacoma, I do my best to write about what happened and if possible, what sort of person the victim was. I try not to let my personal opinion influence things too much. In this case, I’m finding it difficult.

At this point it’s unknown what exactly was wrong with Melissa McMillen. She is either mentally ill, very stupid, or absolutely evil. Possibly all of the above. I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s this sort of senseless crime that made me take a break from writing up Tacoma homicides.

Still, I feel it’s important to give a voice to those who’ve been killed in Tacoma and I’ll continue to do so. Baby Girl McMillen died without even having a name. But she will not be forgotten.

- Jack Cameron

Seventh Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Jacqueline Hensler

The Proctor District is a fairly prosperous area of Tacoma. I spent a couple of years living in an apartment just off of North 32nd and Proctor. The neighborhood is full of little shops and big houses. The Metropolitan Market just off of 26th and Proctor is the most high end grocery store in the city. About a block down is a restored classic movie theater called The Blue Mouse. And, I spent many an evening having a few drinks at Knapps and then stumbling home. It was a great place to live.

Wednesday afternoon, police stopped by a house on North 30th Street near Proctor. They’d received reports the 55-year-old woman who lived there had been missing from work for a few days and had not returned phone calls. Inside the house, police found the bodies of Jacqueline Hensler and her 18-year-old son, Ryan Simms. Jacqueline was stabbed multiple times. Ryan was found with a plastic bag over his head. After going over evidence at the scene, it was determined that Ryan stabbed his mother to death and then took his own life by asphyxiating himself.

At this time the motive for the murder is unknown. Jacqueline was a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital and by all accounts well liked. Ryan had recently returned from attending college in England. Police have not released a motive at this time. If more details become available about the motive or the circumstances, I will update this post with that information.

Jacqueline’s murder and her son’s suicide is a sobering reminder that domestic violence is a reality regardless of the neighborhood you live in. It’s difficult to comprehend this sort of crime. Even if more details are revealed, I doubt that it will make too much sense. Somebody once said that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. This is true. The same can often be said of homicide.

This is the worst of all possible outcomes for this family and my thoughts go out to their loved ones.

Comments by those who knew the deceased are welcome.

-Jack Cameron

Sixth Tacoma Homicide of 2011 – Tony McDougald

At 4:40am Monday morning, a South Tacoma homeowner and his wife were woken up to the sounds of dogs barking. In the past few weeks, they’d had previous attempted break ins. Back in March, less than a block away, Marvin Plunkett was shot and killed. This neighborhood is no stranger to violence. So when the homeowner went out to investigate the noises he heard in his garage, he was armed with a pistol. He’d already told his wife to call 9-1-1. He confronted the two burglars and held them at gunpoint. Then the two men decided to charge him. He reacted by firing his weapon. One of the burglars was 36-year-old Tony McDougald. After being shot, Tony managed to run away into the alley where he died. The other wounded burglar remained near the garage where the homeowner used a first aid kit until the police and ambulance arrived.

The death of Tony McDougald  is the sixth Tacoma homicide in 2011 and the second death of a would-be burglar in the last seven weeks. As in the case of Jamarr Johnson, no charges will be filed against the homeowner. The message from Tacoma authorities is clear: If someone breaks in and you have a reasonable fear for your life, you can shoot them.  I don’t entirely disagree. I would argue that it’s the South Tacoma Way. I don’t think that burglary should be punishable by death, but you break into MY house, it just might be.

I grew up a block away from this latest homicide of South 40th and Fawcett. It was and is a lower middle class neighborhood full of gravel alleys, detached garages, and dogs. Like other kids in that area, I went to Whitman Elementary School and Stewart Middle School. And it was at Stewart Middle School that I first met Tony McDougald.

It was only this morning that I learned that it was Tony who had been killed. I’m still processing it. I haven’t seen Tony in over twenty years. To be honest, I always assumed that he was in prison. It wasn’t that Tony was a bad kid. He just rarely, if ever, followed the rules. He was shorter than most of the other kids our age, but he made up for that with personality and attitude.

In middle school in 1989 Tony wore ripped jeans, metal band shirts, a jean jacket, and hair that would not have looked out of place in a Bon Jovi video. He was rock n roll at a time when I was just figuring out who I was. I don’t remember how we became friends. I remember that we had a lot of conversations about the crazy stuff that he’d do. There was one morning our English class was all supposed to meet for a field trip and everyone was there but Tony. Someone asked where Tony was and just then we saw him running down the sidewalk with a security guard chasing him. There was no doubt that he was a criminal. Even back then. That said, he was still my friend and he was great to talk to. He was smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for. Most teachers saw the rocker outfit and just assumed he was a dumbass.

I don’t know what happened to Tony between 1989 and last Monday morning. From what little I know, he likely didn’t change too much. He was probably a good friend to the people who knew him. He probably broke rules when he felt like it. And while he probably never expected to die of gunshot wounds in an alley after trying to burglarize a place, I don’t think it would have surprised him.

One thing I know that the homeowner could not have known is that Tony wouldn’t have hurt him. The Tony I knew wasn’t really a violent guy. Tony was likely just running towards the guy to get away. But there’s no way the homeowner would have known that. He reacted in the way most people would in that situation. It wasn’t a murder, but it was a tragedy.

Tony was the first person I ever met who lived by his own set of rules. And even at thirteen years old he knew that there were consequences for living that way, but being like everyone else wasn’t even a possibility for Tony. I’m not sure I’d be the same person I am today without having had Tony as a friend in middle school. He was my first brush with rebellion. In a world of copies, Tony was a true original. He may have been a criminal, but he wasn’t a bad guy.

Update: A memorial for friends and family of Tony McDougald is planned for Saturday, June 4 at 11 a.m. at Elk Plain Community Church (4115 224thStreet E, Spanaway). The public is welcome.