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Top cops show up for guilty verdict

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When an Okanogan County jury came back with a guilty verdict Wednesday convicting Kelly Small of murdering and raping Sandy Bauer more than 14 years ago, three of the highest-level cops in the county were there. Omak Police Chief Larry Schreckengast, Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers, and Undersheriff Joe Somday came not just because they were interested in the case. All three investigated the homicide, back when they had street jobs. Rogers and Somday also stood behind Small as the verdict was read, just to make sure he didn't try to escape or cause a commotion. Interestingly, Rogers and Somday worked for the Omak Police Department — Rogers as a sergeant, and Somday as an officer. And Schreckengast worked for the sheriff's office, as a detective. Schreckengast said when he became chief, he gave the investigating officer a free hand to continue working on the case. And when he hired detective Jeff Koplin, he gave him the reins. Cops hate to see any case go unsolved, and particularly murder. "It eats you alive," Rogers said. "People think we do our case and move on, but we don't." This case was particularly bothersome. Sandy Bauer was not only well known in the community as the former proprietor of the Cariboo Inn, she had also worked closely with law enforcement. She was one of the first women to become a dispatcher for the Okanogan County Sheriff's Office. And, she had worked in the sheriff's records department, and for the Okanogan Police Department, when the city had its own force. Rogers said even after he was elected sheriff, he brought a copy of the entire case with him. "I was a firm believer. I said, 'We'll solve it. It's just going to take that one thing.'" A break in the case came in the form of another rape of an elderly Omak woman. She struck Small in the head with a phone during the attack, drawing blood. The DNA he left behind ended up matching DNA on hairs at Sandy Bauer's apartment. Detective Koplin then began re-interview all of the initial witnesses, asking them for a DNA sample. "This department and this city were great when it came to allowing me to investigate this case," Koplin said. He said after sitting through the whole trial, he was nervous when it took the jury a day and a half to come up with a verdict. That victory, he said, goes to Prosecutor Karl Sloan and his deputy prosecutor Felecia Chandler.