7th Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Mariela Vargas-Brown

It was a nice night on April 6, 2021. On that early spring evening 29-year-old Mariela Vargas-Brown was doing what a lot of people in Tacoma do. She was driving her car on the waterfront road of Ruston Way at around 10:30pm when someone shot at her car hitting her. Her car crashed into a pole. She crawled out of her car and died on the scene becoming the seventh Tacoma homicide this year.

It’s eight months later and this homicide has yet to be solved and the full circumstances of the crime remain unknown. CrimeStoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to her killer’s capture and conviction. Callers can remain anonymous. Read more about that here.

Mari was a phlebotomist. Her job was drawing blood from children. She loved working with children and genuinely enjoyed life. People close to her say that the only thing that makes sense is that she was hit by a stray bullet as she did not have any enemies that they are aware of.

Any time someone is murdered, it impacts those who knew the victim, but it is especially difficult to deal with the grief when the circumstances of their death remain a mystery. Murders like this are often solved by someone who knows something finally giving authorities the piece of information they need to find the person responsible.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Mari and want to share thoughts or memories of her.

  • Jack Cameron

6th Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Andrew Craig Schoolmaster

On the morning of March 14, 2021 in the 4400 block of South 49th Street, the 43-year-old wife of 55-year-old Andrew Craig Schoolmaster knocked on her neighbor’s door. She had been shot. Her wounds were non-life threatening. When first responders arrived she explained that she had shot her husband multiple times. He was taken to a local hospital where he died the next day becoming Tacoma’s sixth homicide of 2021 and the second homicide domestic violence related homicide this year.

The full circumstances around the death of Andrew Schoolmaster are not known and his wife has not been charged with any crime at this time.

Andrew grew up with a father who was in the Air Force. So they moved around a lot. Like his father, he also joined the Air Force. Also, like his father he was a bit of a gear head. The two of them would sometimes go to car shows. Andrew liked to drive fast. His most prized possession was his 1970 Oldsmobile. After the Air Force, he became a diesel mechanic. He and his wife had four children.

As always the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Andrew and want to share thoughts of memories of him.

  • Jack Cameron

5th Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Terrance Paige

In the early morning hours of February 6, 2021, Terrance Paige was hanging out with his brother and two friends at the Gatekeepers after-hours club in the 3600 block of McKinley Avenue located on the second floor of the building. There were about fifty people inside. At around 2:00am Terrance got into an argument with a 21-year-old man. Terrance’s brother and his friend decided to leave. As they left, Terrance said something to the man and the man pulled out a gun and opened fire. He shot Terrance and three other individuals. Paramedics found Terrance at the bottom of the stairs, performed CPR, but were unable to revive him. Terrance is the fifth Tacoma homicide of 2021.

The man responsible for the shooting was arrested in March of 2021.

After-hours clubs have been a problem in Tacoma for years and a frequent location for homicides. The Gatekeepers Club had been warned repeatedly to shut down as they had no license to operate, but the owner ignored these requests.

I was unable to find out much about Terrance’s life. This is often the case when someone has a common name or a small online presence. This is one of the reasons that the comments section exists and is moderated and reserved for family and friends of Terrance to share thoughts and memories about him.

  • Jack Cameron

4th Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Shane Kolowitz

On January 28, 2021, Shane Kolowitz drove his pregnant girlfriend and their friend to meet up with a teen who had offered to sell them acid. When they arrived, the teen pointed a gun at Shane and the two struggled over the gun before Shane drove away. The teen fired two or three shots at the fleeing car. Police believe another gunman also fired shots at the car. When Shane got to the corner of South 27th and Yakima, the teen’s 13-year-old brother opened fire. One bullet hit Shane in the neck. First responders found Shane slumped behind the steering wheel. He’d later die of his wounds at the hospital becoming the fourth Tacoma homicide this year and the third drug related homicide this year. Shane Kolowitz was sixteen years old.

Those responsible for Shane’s death were arrested a short time later.

In Middle School Shane was part of the Hands on Horses program and seemed to have a natural rapport with them. His favorite horse was named Hercules. He had family and friends who cared deeply for him.

It’s impossible to know what sort of life Shane might have had if he had not been murdered. One’s actions when they are teenagers rarely show us what sort of adult one is going to be. His child will grow up having never known his father. There is a GoFundMe set up to pay for the costs of Shane’s funeral and other expenses. You can find it at this link.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Shane who want to share thoughts of memories of him.

  • Jack Cameron

3rd Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Kieyree ‘Kie’ Spencer

On the evening of January 18, 2021, 22-year-old Kieyree Spencer, Kie, to his friends, sat in a Honda Accord with snother young man in the parking lot of the gas station on South 15th and Sprague. There was 35 grams of marijuana in the car that they intended to sell. Kie was in the driver’s seat. Four young men approached them. One of them opened fire, hitting both Kie and his passenger multiple times. The young men then ran away, got into a Chevy Malibu, and drove off. The man in the passenger seat managed to make it into the convenience store attached to the gas station and ask for help, but by the time first responders arrived, Kie was dead. Kieyree Spencer is the third Tacoma homicide of 2021.

The men responsible for Kie’s death were arrested and charged with his murder. They admit that they had no intention of paying for the marijuana. They were there to rob them, but after they opened fire they ran without anything to show for it.

Kai was a charismatic and fun loving guy. He enjoyed sports and especially loved the water. He was the sort of guy who had an infectious smile. And his life was just beginning.

It’s all too easy for some to ignore homicides that involve drug deals gone bad, but to do so ignores the humanity of our fellow citizens. Kai was 22 years old. And while we know the circumstances of his death, we will never know what he could have been. That has been stolen from us. And his friends and family have a grief that will never fully go away.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Kai and want to share thoughts of memories of him.

  • Jack Cameron

2nd Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Tracy Baker

Tracy Baker had gotten off work early on the evening of January 12, 2021. He worked as a security guard. Having the time, the 36-year-old went to Walmart to pick up things for his family. While he was there he encountered a 27-year-old man pretending to be a security guard who got angry when Tracy questioned whether he was legitimate. The man got in Tracy’s face and taunted him. Tracy tried to defuse the situation, at one point putting the man in a ‘bear hug’ to stop him. Then Tracy decided to leave the store, but the man followed him outside into the parking lot and punched him. Tracy responded and by the time the actual Walmart security guard had shown up and separated the two, the 27-year-old man had stabbed Tracy eight times with a pocketknife. Tracy leaned on the hood of his car and died on the scene before paramedics could arrive becoming the second Tacoma homicide of 2021.

I don’t need to wonder what sort of man Tracy was because his life showed it. He was a military veteran who made a career out of protecting people. In October of 2020 he made news when in the course of his job as a security guard, he interrupted and stopped a man who was sexually assaulting a woman outside an apartment complex in Seattle.  Tracy’s family tell how Tracy was always someone to put others before himself. It was literally his job.

Tracy’s family has put together a GoFundMe to pay for Tracy’s funeral expenses and other associated costs. You can donate here.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for friends and family of Tracy Baker who want to share thoughts or memories of Tracy.

  • Jack Cameron

First Tacoma Homicide of 2021: Stephanie Chaipis

On January 10, 2021, 27-year-old Stephanie Chaipis’s husband of ten years had done methamphetamine. He started yelling and arguing with her in their home in the 5600 block of South Park Avenue. Their four children who ranged in ages between 1 and 8 years old were all home. The argument became physical. He pushed her into a wall, causing her to hit her head. He slapped her face bloody. He hit her again and again all over her body. She became dizzy. Their oldest child witnessed this.  Eventually he went online to look at side effects of head trauma. Finally, after hours of abuse, he called 911. Stephanie was taken to the hospital where she was declared brain dead. She died five days later becoming Tacoma’s first homicide of 2021. She was eight weeks pregnant.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of information about Stephanie Chaipis, but what I can tell you is that she absolutely loved her children. Her photos from social media show her having fun with her kids. They have big smiles around her and she had a smile for them.

It is unimaginable what her children who she cared so much about are going through now with both parents gone thanks to the careless, cruel, and terrible actions of their father.

Domestic violence is a common cause for homicide. More often than not, it is the wife who is killed. Often it seems as though there is no way out. It is all too easy for someone outside of the situation to say, ‘just get out’, but it is rarely so simple in reality. If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

As always the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Stephanie and want to share any thoughts and memories of her.

  • Jack Cameron

30th Homicide of 2020: Patrick Nathan Shenaurlt

On the evening of December 3, 2020 two men approached the homeless encampment on 6th and M Street looking to cause trouble. One of them lived a block away and blamed a resident of the encampment for his car recently being broken into and was looking for some payback carrying a piece of wood. The other had a pistol. They admit that their intent was to get the entire encampment of over a dozen tents full of unhoused individuals to move through violent force. The man with the piece of wood started swinging at tents with no regard to who was inside them. When encampment resident 38-year-old Patrick Nathan Shenaurlt heard the commotion he grabbed the only weapon he had, a BB gun and confronted the two men. The man with the gun saw the BB gun and shot Patrick twice in the back, killing him. Patrick is the 30th Tacoma homicide of 2020.

Tacoma has always had a significant homeless population and these days it is significantly bad due to an influx of new residents willing to pay rents that many long-time residents cannot afford. This has led to multiple encampments popping up throughout the city. They tend to last for a few months and then are cleared out by police and reappear somewhere else in the city. These temporary communities offer both safety and danger. And while there is increased crime where these encampments appear, it’s important to note that the most likely victims of these crimes are other homeless individuals.

Patrick had been homeless since 2013. He was someone who gravitated towards the role of protector in whatever company he was in. Outspoken and compassionate, it would not surprise anyone who knew him to see him standing up to a couple of adult bullies who, at the time Patrick confronted them had already injured two women inside a tent.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Patrick and want to share thoughts or memories of him.

  • Jack Cameron

29th Tacoma Homicide of 2020: Joshua Moore-Hughes

It was a late night in a motel in the 8800 block of Hosmer on December 1, 2020. People had been entering and leaving one particular room all night. At one point the man who rented the room noticed that thirty Percocet pills were missing and ordered that the ten people in the room remain there until the missing pills were found. He asked a 33-year-old man for assistance. When the renter of the room accused32-+year-old Joshua Moore-Hughes of stealing the pills, Joshua took offense as he knew he was innocent of the theft. The 33-year-old told him to watch his mouth. Joshua said, ‘Watch my mouth?’ at which point, the 33-year-old shot him with a 9mm pistol. The people in the room scattered and were largely uncooperative when police later questioned them. The 33-year-old was soon taken into custody while Joshua was taken to the hospital where he later died becoming the 29th Tacoma homicide of 2020.

Hosmer is a street notorious for crime. Major crimes happen in the area on a weekly if not daily basis. And it is all too easy for someone to look at the things that happen there and pretend that they don’t matter because it’s a high crime area that law abiding citizens tend to avoid. This viewpoint dehumanizes our fellow citizens and ignores the fact that a human being is more than their worst actions, more than their worst decisions, more than their circumstances. And perhaps, more importantly, everyone has loved ones who never did anything to deserve the grief they now have thanks to the unnecessary loss of a loved one.

Joshua had a large family who cared deeply about him. He had the sort of laugh that would make others laugh even if they didn’t know what he was laughing about. He spoke up about injustice and cared about others.

As always, the comments section is moderated and reserved for those who knew Joshua and want to share any thoughts or memories of him.

  • Jack Cameron

28th Tacoma Homicide of 2020: Gregory Evans

In the early morning hours of November 27th, 55-year-old Gregory Evans was talking to a 42-year-old acquaintance near his vehicle in the 2000 block of East 60th Street when a light gray Dodge Charger with black wheels slowly rolled up. Inside the car were two Black men in their twenties. One had light skin and a pony tail. The other had darker skin with his hair in twists. When they opened fire they hit both Gregory and the man standing next to him. Gregory died of his wounds while the other man survived.

Nearly a year later this crime remains unsolved. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrests of the men responsible for this crime. Find out more details at this link. You can also anonymously call in information at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477)

Gregory is the 28th Tacoma homicide of 2020. Any homicide is a tragedy, but unsolved homicides that seem random and senseless and perhaps more infuriating than others in that there is no justice and nowhere to place blame until those responsible are caught.

Unfortunately I was unable to discover much about Gregory Evans’s life. This is often the case when an individual lacks much of an online presence and/or has a fairly common first and last name.  In circumstances like this, I especially hope that those who knew Gregory will share thoughts and memories of their lost loved one. If anyone has a photo of Gregory they’d like to share for this article, please reach out to me at jackcameronis@gmail.com .

  • Jack Cameron