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Man charged with murder in deaths of missing mom, girl

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VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — The man named as a person of interest in the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old daughter was charged with two counts of murder in their deaths, police in Washington state said Friday.

Detectives from the Vancouver Police Department booked Kirkland Warren for two counts of first-degree murder Friday after the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Meshay Melendez, 27, and her daughter, Layla Stewart, sustained gunshot wounds to their heads, according to a statement.

Warren was out on bail pending a long-delayed murder trial in Arkansas. When he was arrested in southwestern Washington early this month on charges that he assaulted Melendez and fired a gunshot into her apartment, he quickly posted bond and was released again.

The March 22 discovery of the bodies of the mother and daughter raised questions about why someone facing a murder charge in another state would be released from custody after being arrested in a serious domestic violence offense.

Warren was charged with killing an acquaintance in his vehicle in 2017 and leaving the body in a roadside ditch. He told police the passenger was asking him for money and that he shot him because he feared for his safety.

His family got him released from custody pending trial by putting up 10% of his $250,000 bond, said his attorney in that case, Mark Hampton. Warren subsequently moved to Washington with the knowledge of his lawyer and prosecutors.

Hampton didn’t return a phone message seeking comment on the new murder charges Friday. It was unclear if Warren, who was incarcerated in the Clark County Jail, had an attorney for the latest charges.

Warren’s March 2 arrest stemmed from a December episode during which police said he assaulted Melendez and then fired a gunshot into her apartment. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Warren was the last person seen with the mother and daughter before they disappeared, authorities said. A friend told police she had been babysitting Stewart the night of March 11 when Warren arrived to pick her up. Melendez was unresponsive in the car, naked from the waist down.

The friend reported Melendez missing March 18. Melendez’s mother also reported her missing, saying the family had not heard from her for a week. The next day, police arrested Warren again. With his bail in Arkansas revoked and his bail in Washington increased to $1 million, he has been in custody since.

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