SPOKANE, Wash. -Fourteen victims' families finally have some answers after months of waiting, although it likely isn’t what they were hoping for. After nearly a year of investigating, The Washington Department of Health says Spokane’s Medical Examiners “met the standard of care” in the autopsies they were asked to review.
"There were 14 investigations on the two ME's that were considered at the March 1 WMC (Washington Medical Commission) meeting," said Micah T. Matthews with the WMC through an email Tuesday afternoon. "The investigations were reviewed by an outside expert, a pathologist with experience as a medical examiner."
The investigations were launched after complaints were made last spring. One of the 14 cases that was reviewed was that of Kala Williams. Williams was found dismembered in 2012. Her body parts were placed in a sleeping bag and trash bags. Despite the gruesome nature of her remains, her manner of death was ruled to be "undetermined" instead of "homicide."
Officials with the Washington Medical Commission also said, " The job of the WMC investigation in most cases is to determine if the practitioner met the standard of care in treating the patient or avoiding patient harm. As these were death determinations, the standard of care shifts from patient harm to following protocol, procedure, and best practice as it relates to pathology and the practice of a medical examiner. The WMC has no ability reverse death findings of medical examiners, but there is a pathway for judicial review of those findings available to the public through the following law: RCW 68.50.015. In these cases, the expert found the two MEs did in fact meet the standard of care. After consideration of the 14 investigations and the expert review, a panel of Commissioners closed the investigations as having met the standard of care."
Kala's aunt Julie Beauchanie said the entire ordeal has been heartbreaking. She said she's not giving up hope that there will one day be justice for Kala.
"We are sick to our stomachs," she said. "Kala's whole family is standing behind her angle wings waiting for her to be in heaven in peace."
You'll recall in our previous coverage, that SPD also reached out to another pathologist to review Kala Williams case. Records show his expert opinion was that this was in fact a homicide. Documents show SPD did want a suspect charged in her case after the suspect's DNA was found with her remains. Despite their request for charges, he was never charged with anything to do with Kala Williams.
Police documents show SPD suspects that same suspect is also tied to the disappearance of another Spokane woman, Heather Higgins. She vanished back in 2010. Despite her body never being found, detectives believe she was murdered.
The suspect identified in documents in both Higgins' case and Williams' is currently in prison for violating attacking another woman in Idaho.