Pierce County prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old man with aggravated first-degree murder – the state’s highest crime – in the strangling death of a South Hill developmentally-delayed teen whose body was found Monday night.
Investigators contend Tyler Wolfgang Savage killed and then sexually assaulted Kimberly “Kimmie” Daily before her family reported her missing on Aug. 17, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. The charge of aggravated first-degree murder carries a possible death sentence, though a decision on whether to seek it against Savage has not been made.
Savage, who has no prior criminal history, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment this afternoon. Commissioner Patrick Oishi ordered Savage held without bail in Pierce County Jail.
A woman at Savage’s home declined to comment late Tuesday morning.
“You are not getting nothing,” she told a News Tribune reporter. “You just need to go.”
A neighbor of Savage’s was near tears about his arrest.
“He’s like a family member,” said Jenny Berto, 35. “I accepted him into my home.”
“This is throwing me for a loop. This is so unexpected.”
Berto said Savage was known throughout the neighborhood. He enjoyed playing video games and took Berto’s son to the South Hill Mall and out for pizza.
“He’s so sweet, upbeat, funny,” Berto said. “I trust him wholeheartedly.”
Investigators interviewed Savage on Monday and he reportedly led them to Daily’s body, which was located about 150 yards off 122nd Street East in an overgrown, vacant lot. Savage admitted he convinced Daily to cross the street, which she didn’t want to do, and led her into an isolated area.
“Savage admitted that he strangled Kimberly when she attempted to leave,” Lindquist wrote in a press release. “He also admitted to sexual contact with her. He told detectives that he carried Kimberly’s dead body toward a large thicket of blackberry bushes and brambles, dumped her body and threw her bicycle on top of her naked body.”
Charging documents state Savage removed Daily’s clothing “to make it appear to be ‘something else,’ ‘like she was raped.'”
Savage told investigators that by 4 p.m. Aug. 17, the time Daily’s family reported her missing, he was playing an online video game “in an effort to ‘forget,'” charging documents state.
Daily, who was developmentally delayed, a Special Olympics athlete and was getting ready to start her junior year at Rogers High School, was last seen the afternoon of Aug. 17. Searchers and detectives had been looking for her ever since.
Investigators were back at the lot near 122nd Street East and 115th Avenue Court East today, looking for evidence, Pierce County sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Blair said. They’ve found a backpack believed to be Daily’s and part of a cellular phone. They were still searching for the other half of the phone.
The three-acre lot used to have three houses situated on it. The houses have since been torn down, and sticker bushes and Scotch broom have taken their place.
Blair said the lot was in the area where search-and-rescue volunteers and dog teams had been searching for Daily over the past week. He wasn’t sure if the exact lot had been searched.
“I think its terrible,” said Joe Owen, 80, as he stood at his front door, located across from the lot. “A little girl got murdered and to dump her at my front door.”
Investigators also were searching Savage’s home and property today, Blair said.
Savage, who was going to be a senior at Emerald Ridge High School, and Daily were acquaintances but not close friends. He told investigators the two had known each other for more than two years, charging document state. They were also friends on Facebook.
Investigators first contacted Savage on Wednesday during a neighborhood canvass. A witness had reported seeing Savage walking with Daily the afternoon she disappeared, sheriff’s Capt. Brent Bomkamp said. Searchers also contacted Savage, who happened to be out and about during their canvass, and he, too, said he’d been with Daily but the two parted ways near his house in the 11100 bock of 122nd Street East.
Investigators interviewed Savage a second time and found inconsistencies in his statements, Bomkamp said. The detectives decided to talk to him a third time Monday. They initially asked him to show them – in person – where he’d last seen Daily.
After that, detectives took Savage to a Sheriff’s Department facility to be interviewed further.
“It was basically outstanding interviewing, interrogation that allowed us to have him eventually lead us to where he had killed her and left her,” Bomkamp said.
A Facebook page had been set up to spread the word about Daily’s disappearance. A vigil for Daily is scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at Zeiger Elementary School.
Staff writers Adam Lynn and Steve Maynard contributed to this report.