YAKIMA, Wash. — Murder charges will be sought against two Yakima County jail inmates suspected of a “sudden and unprovoked attack” that apparently led to the fatal stabbing Wednesday morning of a domestic violence suspect at the Yakima County jail, detectives said.
The stabbing victim — a Yakima man identified by the Yakima County Coroner’s Office as Timothy Michael Denton, 27 — was found dead about 10:30 a.m. in his fourth-floor cell.
Sgt. Mike Russell of the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office said an initial review of jail surveillance video shows that two inmates waited to enter Denton’s cell until shortly after a corrections officer had checked on their unit about 8:30 a.m.
“There are some indications the motive was gang-related,” Russell said Wednesday night.
He identified the suspects as a 19-year-old Outlook man and a 25-year-old Yakima man. No names were released.
Denton, who court records indicate had ties to the FB gang, was booked in to the jail Tuesday night on an arrest warrant charging him with first-degree burglary, second-degree assault and third-degree malicious mischief in connection with domestic violence. He was being held on $100,000 bail.
Medics and Yakima firefighters responded after corrections officers found him, but were not able to help him, a fire department spokesman said.
A possible weapon was recovered at the scene, but more details were not released pending an autopsy scheduled for this morning.
In a news release issued Wednesday evening, sheriff’s detectives said that Denton had suffered significant trauma to the upper body.
In the request for the arrest warrant, Yakima police said Denton broke in to his ex-girlfriend’s Yakima residence early on the morning of April 12.
He became enraged upon finding her with another man and hit her in the face and body so badly that her left eye socket was broken and her shoulder was separated, according to the report.
He also stomped and kicked her, damaged her cellphone when she tried to call for help and then strangled her, police said.
Before leaving the home, he broke a large television and other furniture, according to the report.
The woman, with whom he had a 4-year-old son, was treated at a Yakima hospital and was expected to require follow-up medical care.
Officers were not able to locate Denton at the time. He was eventually arrested by Yakima police and the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force.
Denton’s sister, Ashley Scribner, said her brother had been trying to get his life back on track so he could reconcile with his ex-girlfriend. They broke up about six months ago, but he had continued to care for his son, she said.
“I just want everybody to know he was an amazing father,” Scribner said in a brief phone interview Wednesday evening.
“He loved his son. He didn’t deserve this,” she said.
She also raised concerns about security at the jail. She said Denton had asked not to be placed in the tank where he was held because of concerns that some of his friends did not “see eye to eye” with other inmates held there.
“I just want everyone to watch out for their family when they go in the Yakima County jail and know it is not a safe place to be,” she said.
Russell said he had no indication that corrections staff had been deficient in their duty.
Court records show Denton was arrested several times on charges accusing him of mistreating his ex-girlfriend or others. His criminal history dates back to age 13.
In 2007, Denton was sentenced to a year in jail, with all but 25 days suspended, for violating a protective order with the ex-girlfriend and brandishing a deadly weapon.
In 2008, Denton was accused of assaulting her after she had picked him up from the Yakima city jail, where he had just been released after being charged with violating a no-contact order naming her, and also hitting another woman in the car. The charges were later dismissed.
In 2009, he was again charged with violating a no-contact order protecting the ex-girlfriend, for which he was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He was also listed as being with the FB gang.
Denton was most recently convicted, in 2010, of violating a court order that barred him from contacting the ex-girlfriend. Scribner said he was released from prison in 2011 and had been attending Perry Technical Institute.
She said he became heavily intoxicated and went to the ex-girlfriend’s home in April in a mistaken attempt to get back together.
That did not fit with the rest of his efforts to steer clear of trouble, Scribner said.
“He was being a dad. He grew up. He became a man,” she said.
Corrections Department Director Ed Campbell referred questions about the incident to the sheriff’s office. Campbell said his agency will conduct a separate internal investigation.
Sheriff’s detectives said they spent much of the day at the jail, collecting evidence , reviewing video and interviewing corrections officers and inmates.
If confirmed as a homicide, it would be the 11th in Yakima County this year and the first at the county jail since the August 2007 fatal beating of Damian Long. Several other inmates were convicted in that case, and two lawsuits filed in connection with the case were ultimately dismissed.
The county and Long’s mother eventually settled a claim she brought against the county in federal court. Details were not available Wednesday about Donna Long’s settlement with the county.
In the other lawsuit in Yakima County Superior Court, attorneys for Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center and doctors working there successfully argued that Long’s mother lacked legal standing to sue.
• Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Donald W. Meyers contributed to this report.