King County judge hears three murder cases back to back

Mar 20, 2024, 2:18 PM

Seattle lawyer...

Gavel. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Suspects in three separate homicides in Seattle, all arrested on the same weekend earlier this month, appeared before the same judge at the King County Courthouse Wednesday.

Ax murder of sleeping homeless man in First Hill

Liam Kryger, 25, was the first of the three to appear in court, pleading not guilty to first-degree premeditated murder. Prosecutors said Kryger used an ax to kill Daravuth Van, 52, who was sleeping on the steps outside Town Hall on Feb. 22.

According to court documents, Kryger was captured on surveillance video looking around to make sure no one else was there before swinging a “long-handled weapon in downward motion” toward Van’s head. The blow fractured part of Van’s skull and penetrated his brain, according to the medical examiner’s report. Police say Van and Kryger did not appear to interact before the attack.

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SPD detectives began closely monitoring the area near the homicide, according to Chief Adrian Diaz, out of concern there could be another potential attack. Less than a week after Van’s murder, on Mar. 2, they spotted a person matching Kryger’s description around 3 a.m. near Freeway Park, which sits less than 200 feet from Town Hall.

During a chase, the suspect dropped an ax, which Diaz said helped SPD get a search warrant. They arrested Kryger the next day at his home, about a half mile from the murder scene.

At this time, Seattle police are not linking the suspect to any additional cases. But the circumstances of the Town Hall homicide — including the weapon used — bear similarities to recent attacks in the nearby downtown, Capitol Hill and Yesler Terrace neighborhoods of Seattle.

On the current charge, Kryger’s lawyers opted not to contest the $5 million dollar bail amount on Wednesday. His trial date is tentatively scheduled for May.

Light rail train murder in downtown Seattle

Next to face the judge — 21-year-old Jamari Bland, who pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge. Bland is accused of shooting and killing 26-year-old Damitrious Cranshaw aboard a light rail train in downtown Seattle on Feb. 25.

Seattle police say video captured Bland and Cranshaw interacting aboard the train as it traveled from the Chinatown-International District station to the University Street station around 11:30 p.m.

Detectives said at one point, Bland put his foot out in the aisle and tripped Cranshaw, who was walking towards the door of the train. Witnesses told SPD the two began fighting. While Bland was being held against the wall of the train, “he pulled out a gun and executed the victim in front of half a dozen commuters on the train and then fled the scene,” according to charging documents. Bland turned himself in to police a week later.

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The defense asked the judge to reduce Bland’s bail from its current $2 million to $100,000. They cited Bland’s family, who came to support him in court, and told Judge David Keenan that Bland was participating in an apprenticeship program at Boeing.

“He has no criminal history. He is a very young man,” one of his attorneys said. “It is discussed in the police reports that Mr. Bland turned himself in when he believed the police were looking for him.”

But members of Cranshaw’s family, who were also in the courtroom, said Bland needed to be held responsible.

His mother, Tamika, was emotional as she spoke of her son’s death.

“I have been unable to sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes I can see the last moments of my son’s life,” she said. “The way he gunned down my son makes me believe he has no remorse for anyone’s life. He needs to pay for what he has done.”

Judge Keenan declined to reduce Bland’s bail, and no trial date was discussed at the hearing.

Belltown woman shot in the head

33-year-old Rickesha Overton is charged with first-degree murder and second-degree assault for allegedly shooting and killing another woman in Belltown on Mar. 3.

According to SPD, Overton began fighting with 20-year-old Alicia Decoteau outside a Belltown apartment building just after 1 a.m. Court documents state when officers arrived at the scene of the “shots fired” call, they saw Overton running with a black handgun. As officers ordered her to drop it, Overton allegedly told them, “It was self-defense. I had to shoot her.” Officers discovered Decoteau dead in the alley behind the building.

Prosecutors also point to surveillance video, which they say shows Overton following Decoteau down a staircase in the building while pointing a pistol at her, then shoving Decoteau to the ground before shooting her twice. After the second shot to the head, Overton allegedly kicked Decoteau’s body several times, yelling “the b**** still breathing.”

After her arrest and while being transported by police, officers say Overton told them she didn’t care if she received a life sentence if she was able to “go to Alicia’s funeral.”

Overton was the only one of the three suspects not to enter a plea Wednesday.

“In my conversations with Miss Overton, a brief review of her criminal history and some of the previous dispositions on cases as well as other collateral sources, we have concerns (about mental competency),” King County Deputy Prosecutor Jason Brookhyser told the judge.

He requested the court order Overton be admitted to Western State Hospital for a mental health evaluation before a plea was entered in the case. Judge Keenan agreed, setting a deadline for next month.

While Overton, Bland and Kryger’s alleged crimes are not connected, the three became part of a group of homicide arrests SPD announced earlier this month. According to Chief Adrian Diaz, they were all taken into custody over the weekend of Mar. 2-3 in what he called “extraordinary police work by our detectives and officers.”

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.


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King County judge hears three murder cases back to back