Scores mourn slain Kelso clerk: ‘She was bold, she was strong’

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KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — Scores of community members came together to mourn the loss of a Kelso convenience store clerk murdered during an armed robbery. 

A candlelight vigil was held Friday night at Holt’s Quik Chek in remembrance of 30-year-old Kayla Chapman. 

A candlelight vigil was held to remember Kayla Chapman, the Kelso convenience store clerk gunned down in an armed robbery, Jan. 25, 2019 (KOIN) 

Some of the candles that lit the night had been burning since Tuesday — the day Chapman was gunned down. 

D’Anthony Leslie Williams is accused of shooting Chapman in the neck and chest as he robbed the gas station of cash, cigarettes and even Chapman’s cellphone before leaving in a stolen car. 

Williams was arrested Wednesday night and booked into Cowlitz County Jail on charges of 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree robbery, possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of methamphetamine. 

Those who knew Chapman — and many who simply heard of her death — have left stuffed animals, candles, flowers and balloons at a makeshift memorial outside of the gas station. 

A crowd of around 200 people gathered Friday night to light candles, release balloons and take time to remember the life that was taken. 

Cowlitz County Chaplain Ray Orr told those gathered how Chapman had clearly left a mark on her community and spoke of her love for working with horses at a local rescue ranch.

He added that her loss has “devastated the owners of the store.” 

“The only reason that they even had a graveyard shift was because Kayla wanted to work graveyard — they wouldn’t even be open had it not been for her,” said Orr. 

Regina Allen worked with Chapman a handful of years ago at UBET Casino in Longview. 

She told KOIN 6 News Chapman touched the lives of many people in the area and that “every single experience somebody had with her was good.” 

Allen recalled Chapman bringing extra shoes into work with her to give to a homeless woman who didn’t have any. 

“Just that little bit of love she gave to each person brought so much hope to their lives,” said Allen during Friday night’s vigil. “Just to see this reminds me that peoples’ hearts are still full of love.” 

The owners of a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Longview called Monarca said police are now investigating an armed robbery at their business that may have involved Williams. 

Police are also still looking for other possible suspects in the robbery that left Chapman dead. Officers said they are following several active leads and are working with other law enforcement agencies in the region to track down anyone else involved. 

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