WENATCHEE — The man who wrote a letter from jail pointing to Christopher Scott Wilson as Mackenzie Cowell’s murderer will receive up to $38,000 in a community reward.
Theo A. Keyes, 32, provided multiple tips to police after Cowell’s February 2010 murder, but only one — in a letter written from the city jail in Springfield, Ore., where he was held after exposing himself to a barista at a drive-thru coffee stand — led them to interview Wilson that August.
The reward, pledged by 38 residents and business owners calling themselves Wenatchee Valley Citizens Against Crime, was created in March 2010, while the hunt for Cowell’s killer was still afoot. Each member offered a $1,000 pledge, with the pool of money promised to anyone giving information that led to an arrest and conviction.
With Wilson’s guilty plea May 23 in Cowell’s death — to the lesser crimes of first-degree manslaughter, assault and robbery — the pledged reward became open for claim. Wenatchee Police Detective Edgar Reinfeld said Thursday he contacted Keyes in the last 10 days, and he expressed interest in collecting the reward.
The 17-year-old Cowell was found murdered at Crescent Bar on Feb. 13, 2010. She had gone missing from downtown Wenatchee four days earlier, after leaving the Academy of Hair Design where she worked and studied.
Keyes’ letter, sent in July 2010, urged police to investigate Wilson, claiming he had attacked another young woman in the months just before Cowell’s murder. When police contacted that victim, Shawna Novak, she said Wilson began choking her after she spent a night at his apartment, but then released her and escorted her out.
A DNA swab Wilson permitted at police request tied him to a piece of duct tape found near Cowell’s body. That in turn helped them win a warrant to examine his former Wenatchee apartment, where they found Cowell’s blood soaked deeply into the carpet.
Novak’s testimony was excluded as Wilson headed toward trial last month, but as part of his sentence he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in the attack on her.
Wenatchee Police Capt. Doug Jones, spokesman for the task force that arrested Wilson, said $38,000 is the upper end of the potential reward. The total amount will depend on donors’ ability to fulfill the pledges they made two years ago.
Keyes, a musician who suffers from bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, has helped local cops before. In 2006, he found a gun discarded in an alley by a fleeing carjacker, and turned it over to police.
Keyes exhibited erratic behavior both before and after his tip in the Cowell case. He exposed himself to the Oregon barista in April 2010 and pleaded guilty that July to felony indecency, with an 18-day jail sentence.
That fall Keyes returned to Wenatchee, where a woman took out a temporary restraining order against him, claiming he harassed her with texts, phone calls and Facebook messages. In March 2011 he was barred for a year from approaching Wilson’s mother, after entering her workplace and screaming, “Christopher Wilson is a murderer.” Not long after, he left the Wenatchee Valley for Bellingham.
This is the second reward offered Keyes since Wilson’s arrest. In spring 2011, Cowell’s mother Wendy Cowell awarded him about $2,000. That money was collected by the murdered girl’s friends at a 2010 fundraising party, held on what would have been her 18th birthday.
In 2010, the Chrissy Clements Endowment for Victims of Violent Crime granted $5,000 to Wenatchee Valley Crime Stoppers, payable for information leading to an arrest in the Cowell case. It was later supplemented by other donations, to about $7,000.
But Crime Stoppers co-founder and vice president Bryan Campbell said because Keyes’ tip bypassed Crime Stoppers and the program has an upper cap of $1,000 per award, Keyes is not eligible for that money. It will remain with the Crime Stoppers program, which like the Clements endowment is administered by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123