SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane Police Department's (SPD) Major Crimes Unit (MCU) has referred a first-degree murder charge for 52-year-old Robert G. Davis in relation to the 2012 death of Kala Williams.
This comes weeks after the Spokane County Medical Examiner has changed Williams' manner of death from "undetermined" to "homicide."
According to a release from SPD, the charges against Davis have been forwarded to the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney's office.
Davis is currently in an Idaho prison on unrelated charges.
"I have not yet seen the referral but when I do, my office of senior prosecutors will staff the case and, in considering the new evidence, we will make a decision as to the best way to move forward with it," Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell told KREM 2. "But we will need to staff it and see if the dynamic has changed from the new ME."
The decomposed remains of 20-year-old Williams were found in a sleeping bag in a wooded area of southwest Spokane in May 2012. Williams disappeared a month before her body was found.
Spokane Police received a missing person report from Williams' brother on April 2, 2012. He reported last seeing her several weeks prior.
Authorities said children came across the decomposing body on May 16, 2012, in a wooded area near 14th and Milton, just off Highway 195.
The medical examiner's office initially ruled Williams' manner of death as "undetermined," despite the gruesome details surrounding her death. Now, 10 years later, the office is requesting the Washington Department of Health change the manner of death listed on her death certificate to "homicide."
In order for the medical examiner to review the manner of death, it has to be at the request of law enforcement or family.
The medical examiner is responsible for determining both the cause and manner of death, according to Spokane County Communications Manager Jared Webley. The cause of death is the actual change in the body that leads to death, such as a heart attack or a gunshot wound, while the manner of death is a description of the circumstances of death.
Webley said the classification of manner of death is a "neutral" activity for a medical examiner, as the manner of death is a description required by the state for the purpose of categorizing death. It does not indicate or imply any criminal intent.
Here's how classifying the manner of death works:
- If someone dies of a natural disease and there is no injury or drug or other external force involved, the manner is classified as natural
- If an injury has caused or contributed to death, there are 3 manners to choose from: suicide (if the person inflicts the injury on themselves), accident (if the injury is an unforeseen outcome of another activity), or homicide (if the injury is inflicted by someone else).
- If the body is too decomposed, too badly burned, or otherwise too degraded to determine a cause of death, or there is not enough information available at the time of certification about the circumstances, the manner can be classified as undetermined
Because Williams' body was so decomposed by the time she was found, the medical examiner was unable to determine the exact cause of death. There was also insufficient information about the circumstances of death at the time Williams was found, so the medical examiner was unable to determine a manner of death, according to Webley.
The manner of death is made at a single point in time during what may be an ongoing investigation for the purpose of death certification. Because of this, Webley said cases are never truly "closed," as new information may come to light at any point in time.
Under the new Spokane County Medical Examiner, two manners of death have already been changed and four others are currently under review at the request of family and law enforcement.