PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As darkness fell in Washougal today, family and friends of Meshay Melendez, 28, and her eight-year-old daughter Layla Stewart gathered with candles at the site where authorities believe their bodies were found this morning.
Detectives say that two bodies found in a rural area near Washougal on Wednesday are likely the mother and daughter that have been missing since March 12, according to the Vancouver Police Department.
Vancouver police detectives say they believe the bodies “to be Meshay Melendez and Layla Stewart, based on unique identifying genetic marks.”
Around 9:40 a.m., the Clark County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area off Southeast Sunset View Road after someone had called to report “two ‘life-sized mannequins’ off the roadway down an embankment in some thick brush.”
“The person was out walking their dog and they thought they saw – it’s kind of off of a primitive road up here – and they thought they saw down an embankment what they thought were actually mannequins,” said Sgt. Chris Skidmore of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
The pair were last seen on the morning of March 12 in the area of Vancouver Mall Drive and Northeast 77th Avenue. Family members told Vancouver police that they had not heard from Melendez since March 11.
Investigators say they later learned that Melendez and Stewart had stayed at an acquaintance’s home that night with Melendez’s ex-boyfriend Kirkland Warren. The three were seen leaving in a burgundy Dodge Charger on March 12 around 6 a.m., according to authorities.
Melendez’s car, a 2000 Chrysler 200, was discovered in the 7800 block of Northeast Loowit Loop on March 19. That day, Vancouver Police searched the car and executed a search warrant at Warren’s home on the 3700 block of Northeast 109th Avenue.
Police say they arrested Warren on charges of:
- Tampering with a Witness
- Violation of DV Orders (Meshay Melendez as the listed protected person)
- Assault IV-DV
- Drive-By Shooting
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm II
Makayla Jeter, a best friend of Melendez’s since high school, said the news rocked her – even though she knew something was wrong the moment the pair went missing.
“But I still like – I literally fell out. I fell out. I couldn’t even I couldn’t breathe. Like no way. And then to hear like Layla too. She’s eight,” Jeter said.
Jeter told KOIN 6 that Melendez and Stewart were the life of the party – with big hearts.
“She was a really good mom. Really, really good,” Jeter said. “Layla was spoiled, like Meshay never told Layla no. Never told her no. Layla’s closet is full of toys that she doesn’t use.”
Warren appeared before a Clark County judge Wednesday for allegations in Arkansas. His criminal record shows “an active case, indicted in Arkansas for murder and abuse of a corpse,” according to court documents obtained by KOIN 6.
Those court documents also illuminated Warren’s relationship with Melendez, who had previously reported “being physically assaulted and shot at” by Warren at her apartment.
“Genuinely domestic violence is no joke,” Jeter said. “Don’t play around with stuff like that, don’t be like just letting men inside your house, don’t do it. If you see a red flag, go.”
This investigation is ongoing. Stay with KOIN 6 News as the story develops.