Prosecutor's office seeks to elevate charges against murder suspects

OKANOGAN – The prosecutor’s office has filed motions to elevate the charges against three of the defendants in the Michelle Kitterman murder case.

“We have filed a motion to seek permission to include aggravating factors in the charges,” Karl Sloan, prosecuting attorney, said. “Aggravated murder is first degree murder with aggravating factors.”

He added that by statue, there are several factors that can give a crime the aggravated status and that the prosecutor’s office is alleging some of those aggravating factors be included in the first degree murder charges against Tansy Fae Arwen Mathis, Brent Lane Phillips and David Eugene Richards.

“If we are seeking to amend charges after the arraignment date, we need judicial approval,” Sloan said. “This is just recognizing the evidence that came through in the investigation after the cases were filed.”

Sloan said the maximum sentence for first degree murder is life in prison while if the defendants are convicted of aggravated first degree murder, their minimum sentence would be life in prison. He added that aggravated first degree murder is the only charge that has the possibility of the death penalty, but that the prosecutor’s office is not seeking that penalty right now.

The prosecutor’s office is also seeking to amend the charges to include first degree kidnapping against Mathis, Phillips and Richards. Unless continuances are filed, Mathis, Phillips and Richards are all set to begin their jury trials on June 2. Richards is scheduled to appear in the Okanogan County Jail In-Custody Courtroom on Thursday, May 14 to hear the motion to elevate the first degree murder charge to aggravated first degree murder.

On Sunday, March 1, the body of Kitterman was found in the driveway of 193 Stalder Road in the Pine Creek area south of Tonasket. According to court documents, the autopsy’s preliminary results indicated the cause of death was homicidal violence and that Kitterman was about 11 weeks pregnant.

Mathis was arrested in Spokane after midnight on Thursday, March 26. Phillips was arrested in Seattle around 10 p.m. on March 26. Richards turned himself in to the Spokane Police Department on Sunday, April 5 after a warrant for his arrest was issued on Tuesday, March 31. All three defendants have pled not guilty to first degree murder, first degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence.

The fourth defendant, Lacey Hirst-Pavek, was arrested on March 31. She pled not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit manslaughter in the first degree. On Thursday, April 2, she was released on $250,000 bail and her jury trial has been set for June 30.

According to court documents, Kitterman was having an affair with Hirst-Pavek’s husband, Daniel Pavek, and was pregnant with his child. Hirst-Pavek allegedly made comments that she wanted Kitterman “taken care of.”

Through the investigation, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Department determined that Hirst-Pavek eventually made contact with Mathis referencing Kitterman and over several meetings, in Okanogan County and Spokane, they came to an agreement for Mathis to take care of Kitterman for $500.