A spokesperson for the family told KOIN 6 they are at a loss for words as they prepare to bury the mother and daughter together – after a crime they say never should have happened.
Nichole Norris, the mother and grandmother of Melendez and Stewart, was at a loss for words after the Vancouver Police Department officially charged Melendez’s ex-boyfriend Warren with their murders Friday.
Michelle Bart, the president of the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation, spoke on Norris’ behalf and said they hope Warren pleads out.
“Our organization will be beside the family as we bring the clothes to put on the girls, including Layla, in her brand-new Easter outfit she never got a chance to wear,” Bart said.
The updated charges come after the Clark County Medical Examiner announced both the Vancouver mother and daughter died from gunshot wounds to the head.
Investigators confirmed they found blood evidence, Melendez’s purse and ID, clothing believed to be Stewart’s and bullet casings in her car.
Police say Warren was seen driving off with the pair inside that car as the three left a Vancouver apartment on March 12 – the last time they were seen alive before their bodies were discovered in Washougal last week.
Bart shared these words from Norris after news reached the public: “My babies were failed by the system.”
Warren is wanted in connection to a murder in Arkansas and has a history of domestic violence. A protective order had been filed against him by Melendez last December. Bart says she and the victims’ family feel the court system failed them by granting Warren bail and not implementing the Tiffany Hill Act – which would have required Warren to be monitored.
“A man that’s wanted for murder in another state. He tried to shoot this woman, and kill her, and choked her to death in December, and now we’re letting you out – so that you can complete your mission. We can’t do this,” Bart said.
According to police, investigations revealed a .22-caliber pistol – consistent with the fatal wounds found on the victims and the casings found in Melendez’s car – was discovered in a Hyundai Palisade tied to Warren.
Now, Bart said the family wants justice and reform.
“How many excuses do we have to keep making? Now we have blood on our hands again, and it’s not because the perpetrator shot somebody, and they were deceased; we gave him the means to get out of jail and do the crime,” she said.
Bart said Warren and the victim’s family will be back in court for the first hearing next Monday.
The family has asked for space as they grieve through this process, but a GoFundMe account to help with funeral, counseling and other expenses has been created for those looking to support them.
In a statement, Norris wrote: “They say time heals all wounds this I can say is not true no time will ever heal my wounds…my only daughter my only granddaughter are gone these wounds will remain open for the rest of my living life part of me died with them. I would take their places in a heartbeat if I had the chance.”
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.