One Victim Identified In Double Homicide

SPOKANE — An emergency fire response turned into a homicide investigation Thursday morning when it was discovered that two people in a North Spokane County home were not killed as a result of the fire.

Late Thursday morning a woman visiting the scene of the fire identified herself as Katie Pehl and said that her 20-year-old brother Tanner lives in the home, which is owned by their parents. 

Katie said that she believed that her brother is one of the deceased victims in the home and late Thursday afternoon Sgt. Dave Reagan with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the identity of one of the victims as Tanner Pehl. There is no identification or age available on the second victim, only identified as a woman.

Autopsies on both Pehl and the unidentified woman are scheduled for Friday.

Katie Pehl said that her brother is a good guy who stays away from drugs and other troubling lifestyle choices and can’t understand how or why this could have happened.

“It’s so frustrating for a family trying to, trying to deal with this, to have unanswered questions,” says Cameron Pehl, Tanner’s brother.

Cameron and Katie remembered Tanner as a great, loving brother.

“Everything about him makes me smile,” she said.  “I love everything about him.  I can’t think of one thing about him I didn’t like.”

“He was such an upbeat, happy,” said Cameron Pehl.  “This is terrible to…I don’t even know what to say.  Absolutely terrible.”

Tanner’s sister also talked about the passions in his life.

“He loved life,” Katie said.  “He loved his guitar.  He loved his mom.  He loved his dad.  You know, he was…he’s amazing.”

Tanner’s boss at the nearby Brooklyn’s restaurant echoed sentiments that this was a shocking situation. He said that he’s never had a problem with Tanner in the year that he’s known him, that he was a good kid and a good employee.

Brooklyn’s opened late Thursday to give employees and patrons time to deal with the news that an employee of the restaurant was likely killed early Thursday morning.

Tanner’s sister also mentioned that she did not know the identity of the female victim who was also found dead inside the home. Katie said that to her knowledge her brother did not have a girlfriend.

Sgt. Reagan couldn’t say whether the fire started before or after the people were killed, he could only say that the individuals died as a result of “homicidal violence,” not as a result of the fire. Reagan also confirmed the fire was intentionally set.

The incident happened at 512 E. Elm in North Spokane early Thursday morning. A passing motorist noticed smoke coming out of the residence at about 4:30 a.m. and called 911. Firefighters arrived on scene and knocked on the doors, walls and windows but got no response.

They kicked down the door and found two deceased individuals inside.

“Once we got inside and the smoke was cleared, and the fire department had insured that the fire wasn’t going to reignite, there were circumstances that caused us concern,” Sgt. Reagan said.

Reagan added that it was suspicious enough to bring Major Crimes Detectives and forensics professionals on scene to investigate. Early on in that investigation, detectives discovered that the fire was not the cause of death and have been treating the situation as a homicide investigation.

Investigators could not immediately conclude whether the fire was started before or after the crime, but could determine that the individuals did not die as a result of smoke inhallation, exposure to flames or in any other way directly related to the blaze.

It is known that the fire started in the kitchen. The flames were knocked down fairly quickly, but it was later discovered that the fire had spread to an attic area that was not immediately noticeable.

Investigators from Spokane County Fire District #9 and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were at the house through the evening, trying to determine an exact cause and duration of the fire.  However, it is being investigated as an arson.

Spokane County detectives are planning to resume their investigation into the homicides on Friday morning.

Damage from the fire was contained to the one residence in the 500 block of E. Elm, just off of the Newport Highway a few blocks after it splits from Division. Fire damage to the exterior of the home was minimal, however there was substantial smoke and fire damage inside the residence.