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Police charge ex-boyfriend with murders of Vancouver mother, daughter

The bodies of Meshay Melendez and Layla Stewart were found March 22. The Clark County Medical Examiner concluded that they both died from bullet wounds to the head.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Kirkland Warren has been charged with the murders of ex-girlfriend Meshay Melendez and her 7-year-old daughter, Layla Stewart, Vancouver police announced Friday.

Melendez, 27, and Stewart were reported missing in mid-March and had last been seen traveling with Warren on March 12. Two bodies identified as Melendez and Stewart were found in a remote part of Washougal on March 22.

The Clark County Medical Examiner's Office announced Friday afternoon that it had conducted autopsies and confirmed both deaths to be homicides. The cause of death in each case was a gunshot wound to the head.

At about the same time, Vancouver police announced that Warren had been booked on two counts of first-degree murder. He remains lodged in Clark County jail, police said.

According to court documents obtained by KGW, investigators believe the bullet casings found in one of Warren's vehicles match the gun belonging to Warren. During a search of his cars, officers also found blood evidence in the front and back seats, children's clothing matching what Layla had been wearing on March 12, and a purse with Melendez' identification.  

Investigators also analyzed activity on Warren's cell phone, and explained in the probable cause affidavit that GPS put him at the exact spot the bodies were discovered the day after the mother and daughter were seen for the last time. 

"They need justice, and I am just so angry, sad and heartbroken. I don't know what else to say," said Michelle Bart, a spokesperson for the family, reading a statement from Melendez' mother. 

Warren was arrested March 19 on charges of tampering with a witness and violation of domestic violence orders stemming from an earlier incident involving Melendez in December 2022. At the time, police described him as a person of interest in the disappearances of Melendez and Stewart.

The investigation is still ongoing, police said, and anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact Vancouver Police Major Crime Sergeant Pat Moore at pat.moore@cityofvancouver.us or Vancouver Police Major Crime Detective Dustin Goudschaal at dustin.goudschaal@cityofvancouver.us. Tips and information can also be left on the Vancouver Police Tip Line at (360) 487-7399. 

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