When a Washington man took off after an alleged purse snatcher, he didn’t know he was also chasing a first-degree murder suspect.
On Tuesday, Jason Wright was at a grocery store in Spokane, Wash., to pick up ingredients for dinner when he and his wife saw something out of the ordinary.
“A guy just snatched a lady’s purse and took off out the door,” he told NBC affiliate KHQ-Q6. “I didn’t want to be that guy standing there and watching when something was going on.”
So Wright kicked off his flip-flops and took off after the suspect.
As he chased the man through the parking lot, the suspect eventually threw the purse in the air and Wright was able to catch it.
“I grabbed the purse and I was starting to walk back, and he was following me, but there were a lot of people out, so he got into his car and tried to take off, and I got pictures of his car and his licence plate,” he said. “He yelled out the window, ‘Go ahead, it’s stolen anyways.’ It was just a weird scenario.”
When the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office responded to the attempted theft, they determined the description of the suspect matched that of Joseph Scheel, who they wanted to speak to in relation to a welfare check at an apartment after a woman hadn’t shown up to work for two days. Authorities say the person who called about the woman mentioned she and her boyfriend, “Joseph,” were having difficulties.
Deputies also say the car the suspect left in was found registered to the woman. An attempt to contact the woman again was unsuccessful and they couldn’t locate the vehicle.
They then returned Wednesday after apartment managers intended to enter the unit and requested help from law enforcement.
They entered using a master key, only to find the door barricaded.
Scheel told them to leave and said he had not seen the woman for several days. Deputies forced their way in and detained the 28-year-old after a struggle.
They then found the woman dead inside the apartment.
Scheel was booked into the county jail that night as a fugitive, according to NBC News, due to an active felony and dangerous drugs warrant in Idaho. The suspicious death investigation was upgraded to homicide and Scheel was charged with first-degree murder.
On learning Thursday who Scheel was, Wright says he’s stunned.
“I saw his picture on the news, and it gave me a chill up my back to see what was going on,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies say the investigation is still active and a cause and manner of death has not been determined.