How the West / Wood murders changed Spokane

Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of a child kidnapping case that claimed the lives of two girls and helped bring community orienting policing into area neighborhoods.

Nicki Wood and Rebecca West were abducted in West Spokane by a man who had been offering kids candy in their West Central neighborhood. Now 18 years later these girls and what they went through hasn?t been forgotten.

In fact the first neighborhood police substation in Spokane was named after West and Wood. It stands as a memorial to these children and has forever changed the way citizens and police work together to fight crime.

Naomi Snyder was 14 years old the day Nicki and Rebecca disappeared. Snyder had actually been invited on that fateful walk to the store, an offer shot down by Naomi’s mother.

?I told her no because she had already been to the store a couple of times and it was getting dark and it was starting to get dark and I said no and she got real mad at me and she stomped off,? Naomi?s mom Doris Mashtare said.

However a mother’s protective instincts spared Naomi the terrible things that would happen to the girls who were never seen alive again. Firefighters found Nicki’s body concealed under a pile of burning pine needles. Rebecca has never been found. Six years after their disappearance Michael Tarbert was convicted of their murders.

It was a horrible wake up call for Spokane and the dangers our children face.

?You know its the stripping of innocence from a child, nothing more will get you motivated than that and when I saw the life go out of my daughter’s eyes when I told her that her best friend had been murdered that motivated me to get rolling,? Cheryl Steele said.

Cheryl Steele reacted to the girls? murders by helping to establish Spokane’s first neighborhood police substation. Not long after COPS West went operational the neighborhood saw a 25 percent reduction in crime. That substation was followed by more than dozen other COP Shops across the city, providing a direct link in the neighborhoods between vigilant citizens and the police officers who help protect them.

Michael Tarbert, meanwhile, could be released from prison as early as 2014.