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WENATCHEE — The tipster who pointed police toward a conclusion in the murder of Mackenzie Cowell received his reward Tuesday: $29,500.
Theodore A. “Theo” Keyes, 33, wrote a letter in August 2010 to the task force investigating the death of Cowell, a 17-year-old Wenatchee High School senior who went missing from downtown Wenatchee that February. She was found dead four days later on the shoreline of Crescent Bar.
The letter encouraged police to investigate Christopher Scott Wilson, a classmate of Cowell’s at the Academy of Hair Design who pleaded guilty last May to manslaughter and robbery in her death.
A loose community group, the Wenatchee Valley Citizens Against Crime, organized in March 2010 to raise a reward fund for tips leading to a conviction in Cowell’s murder. After Wilson’s plea, the group worked with the task force to release the fund to Keyes.
Wenatchee Police Capt. Doug Jones, the task force spokesman, called the group’s reward effort “substantial and unprecedented.”
“I have never seen, in my professional career or in the media or anything, this type of reward,” Jones said. “This is pretty incredible.”
The group’s early pledges totaled about $38,000 in promised funds from anonymous donors and business owners. Between March 2010 and Wilson’s plea on May 23, some businesses went defunct and the collected amount was less, Jones said. Donations ranged from $500 to $2,000 from 28 local business owners and individuals, who told police they wish to remain anonymous.
“Really, what they did and what they put forth and the tip that came from that — that was really a turning point,” he said.
Police were running short of leads before Keyes’ letter pointed them to Wilson. A DNA sample Wilson gave then tied him to a genetic profile found on a length of duct tape found near Cowell’s body, the task force said, and that evidence allowed them to arrest Wilson in October 2010. A search of his former apartment turned up a stain police said was a direct match for Cowell’s blood.
Jones said he and task force commander Robbin Wagg of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office handed Keyes a cashier’s check for $29,500 “at an undisclosed location” on Tuesday.
Keyes, who says he’s been diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders, was held in the Chelan County Regional Justice Center from Nov. 26 until 3:20 p.m. Tuesday. He’s charged with second-degree criminal trespass for attempting to enter the Chelan County Courthouse just before midnight on Nov. 25, telling witnesses he needed to get important papers from a judge’s office.
Prior to that, he told a Chelan County sheriff’s deputy who stopped him for a broken brakelight on Nov. 24 that “people were following him and wanted to kill him,” according to the deputy’s report. On Nov. 10, he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a $30 jacket from the Wenatchee Shopko. In her report, the store’s loss prevention officer wrote that Keyes told her he was “homeless, has no money and needed the jacket because it’s cold outside.”
Keyes paid $1,250 bail and was released from jail Tuesday.
His 2010 letter urging attention to Wilson was written from a jail in Springfield, Ore., where he served 18 days for exposing himself to a barista at a drive-through coffeestand.
Asked how police would like Keyes to use the money, Jones said, “It can be used for whatever he would like to use it for. It’s certainly something that could be used to move his life forward, but that’s really up to him. That’s not our call.”
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123