Man arrested, charged with murder of missing mother, her 7-year-old daughter

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A man who was out on bond pending a murder trial in Arkansas was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of murder in Vancouver, Washington, officials say.

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In a news release, the Vancouver Police Department said that on March 18, officers were called out to the Springfield Meadows apartment for a welfare check for Meshay Melendez, 27, and her daughter, Layla Stewart, 7, after their family had not heard from them for about a week.

Investigators learned that on March 12, around 5 a.m. Melendez, Stewart, and Melendez’s ex-boyfriend, Kirkland C. Warren, went to a house to drop Stewart off. A few hours later, Warren went back to the house and got Stewart. Police said the homeowner/acquaintance saw Melendez “passed out” inside the car.

During a search of Warren’s house on March 19, Warren was arrested and charged with tampering with a witness and domestic violence violations for an incident that occurred last December, police said. During the search, officers removed two cars and multiple cell phones. In the search of the vehicle that Melendez and Stewart were last seen in, officers found blood evidence, .22 shell casings, children’s clothing, and Melendez’s identification. In the other car, police reportedly found a .22 pistol in the center console.

On March 22, Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called out about two bodies. The Vancouver Police Department confirmed that the bodies belonged to Melendez and Stewart, police say. The department’s major crime unit took over the investigation the following day.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office examined Melendez and Stewart’s bodies on March 30 and March 31. Stewart had two gunshot wounds and Melendez had one, police said.

Warren on Friday was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, according to The Associated Press.

Warren was reportedly out on bail for a pending delayed murder trial in Arkansas, the AP reported. He was charged with killing an acquaintance in his car in 2017. Warren allegedly then left the body in a ditch. He reportedly told police the man was asking for money and he feared for his life.

His family posted about 10% of his $250,000 bond, according to his attorney, Mark Hampton, according to the AP. Warren then reportedly moved to Washington.

He was previously arrested in Washington for assaulting Melendez and for firing a gunshot into her apartment. Warren was released soon after he posted bond, the AP said.

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