Authorities say homicide suspect David Allen Holmes slashed his victim's throat with a "large, military-syle" serrated knife inside a Volkswagen van in the Highlands late Saturday night.
The victim, Kevin Thomas Watts, 50, had been living in the red and white van, which was parked at 361 Oregon Way in Longview, authorities said.
Police found Watts' body inside the van late Sunday with "severe trauma" to the throat, according to a police report filed Tuesday in Cowlitz County Superior Court.
The van's curtains and ceiling were spattered with blood, suggesting Watts was slain inside the vehicle, authorities said.
Detectives served a search warrant Sunday on Holmes' apartment, also at 361 Oregon Way, where police found an eight-inch knife tucked between the box spring and mattress of Holmes' bed, according to the report. Investigators said the knife was speckled with blood.
Watts was killed during a "dispute," police said, but it's still unclear what the men may have been arguing about.
Cowlitz County Coroner Tim Davidson ruled Watts' death a homicide following a Tuesday night autopsy and said Watts died of "sharp force wounds to the neck."
Holmes, 28, was arrested around 1:25 a.m. Monday morning and booked into the Cowlitz County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder. He is being held on $1 million bail. During a Tuesday morning hearing, Holmes closed his eyes and shook his head as if to deny the charges as Superior Court Judge Michael Evans recounted the allegations against him.
It's not the first time Holmes has been accused of a violent crime. He served five years in prison after admitting to participating in a teenage murder plot in 2000, when he was 15.
Longview police said they were tipped off to the killing by Toby Enfield, 42. Enfield explained that he happened to encounter his friend Lyle Eugene McShirley, who was with Holmes, earlier on Saturday night. McShirley seemed "frightened," he said, and was talking about a body in a nearby van. Police said Enfield's tip led officers to an alley between the 300 block of Oregon Way and 15th Avenue, where, at around 1 a.m., they found Holmes wearing gloves and acting "very nervous."
That's when Sgt. Doug Kazensky peered into the van's open passenger-side rear window and spotted a body, later identified as Watts', laying on its back with "a tremendous amount of trauma to the throat," according to the report.
Both Enfield and McShirley told police Holmes admitted to killing Watts and asked them to help dispose of the body. Holmes, however, told police he "had no idea about a dead body," according to the report.
Authorities said little is known about Watts. He had no family in the area, Longview police Sgt. John Reeves said. An identification card issued in the fall of 2010 listed a Longview address, he said, but it's unknown how long Watts had lived here. Davidson, the coroner, said Watts has a sister and twin brother in Chicago.
Reeves said Watts was said to have obtained a job at cannery and was expected to start work in a few weeks.
Deputy Prosecutor Amie Hunter said in court Tuesday that Holmes has convictions in Oregon for unlawful use of a weapon, hit and run and methamphetamine possession. In 2000, Holmes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree assault after a girl, with whom he had been talking on the phone for a month, allegedly recruited him to kill her ex-boyfriend and another youth. The plot unraveled when Holmes was caught at Clatskanie High School with a 9 mm Markov pistol in his backpack.
"We have concerns for community safety as well as his willingness to come back to court," Hunter said when asking Evans to set Holmes' bail at $1 million.