YAKIMA — Relatives of a woman whose crushed body was found in an alley Tuesday are trying to reconcile her death with their memories of a vibrant, caring girl who was once crowned homecoming queen.
They say Shelly Kinter, 42, struggled through adulthood trying to put herself back together after a car crash 25 years ago that blinded her in one eye.
Her body was discovered early Tuesday morning in an alley near a South Naches Avenue apartment building in Yakima where she lived with others recovering from substance abuse. Authorities expect to charge Aaron Leroy Briden, a 20-year-old Tacoma man recently released from a juvenile rehabilitation center, with first-degree murder.
Briden remains in Yakima County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail set Wednesday.
Court records filed by Yakima police accuse Briden of striking Kinter with a car, placing her in the vehicle while she was still alive before dumping her in the alley and running over her. An autopsy Wednesday confirmed Kinter died from massive head and body trauma and internal injuries suffered from being run over.
The car driven by Briden was reported stolen Monday in the Wapato area from a woman who said she was assaulted by the man who stole it.
“We’re still trying to grasp what’s going on now,” said Kinter’s sister, Linda Calvert of Yakima. “It doesn’t make any sense to us. How can someone do that?”
She and others remember Kinter’s dimpled smile, outgoing and generous personality and the night she was crowned homecoming queen for Davis High School’s Class of 1985.
“I just never met anyone in high school who was so sure of who they were,” said a former classmate, Noelle Kristine Colby-Rotell. “She had a thoughtful and accepting nature, and was a trendsetter.
“She made sweats and fuzzy slippers the popular thing to wear to school.”
Relatives say Kinter never quite recovered from the trauma of the car crash the summer before her senior year. She was riding in a car when it was struck by a truck near Yakima Valley Community College. She hit the windshield and suffered extensive facial damage, family members said.
She had reconstructive surgery on her face and remained blind in one eye.
“Her accident had a lot to do with what kind of person she was to this day,” said her brother, Rob Allen of Yakima. “It really changed her life.”
Colby-Rotell said Kinter tried to remain lighthearted about the accident, even wearing a sequined eye patch to school.
“She did the best she could, but that’s hard for anybody, no matter how confident you are,” she said.
After graduating from high school, Kinter stayed in Yakima for a few years before moving to Tacoma and Phoenix. For a few years, relatives and friends lost touch with her.
“She kind of fell off track there for a while,” Calvert said. “But then she was on the right path and doing very well.”
Kinter had returned to Yakima several years ago to be closer to her family, and had been clean for 10 months. Family members declined to talk about her substance abuse.
“She wanted to have a normal life,” Allen said. “She loved family. I could tell when I’d see her at Thanksgiving or Christmas, the joy in her face.”
The man suspected in her death, Briden, had been in custody at a Thurston County juvenile rehabilitation center from May 2007 to last February for a second-degree robbery conviction in Pierce County, authorities said.
After being released, he remained on parole for the maximum term of 140 days, which ended in July.
He was arrested after a surveillance camera recorded someone in a dark-colored car stopping briefly at the Les Schwab Tire Center on Yakima Avenue, where some bloody clothing was dropped off.
The police later stopped Briden on Tuesday afternoon driving a vehicle matching that description near the 7-Eleven store on East Yakima Avenue.
That car was reported stolen Monday from an Olympia woman who was visiting her brother.
Cerelia Sinclair said she found her car in the Apas Goudy housing project in Wapato a short time after it was taken. She said a man approached her and pushed her to the ground, but she jumped in the car as the man drove away.
She said they struggled inside the vehicle near a hop field, where she was choked before escaping.
Sinclair contends police didn’t believe her account.
“It is upsetting,” she said, “(Kinter’s death) could have been prevented, but the cops didn’t believe me.”
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