A Richland mother was gagged and stabbed 30 times by her ex-boyfriend while her three children were close by, officials said at a news conference Monday.
Rebeca Vandeventer, 32, was found dead last Wednesday in her apartment after her children — ages 2, 4 and 8 — alerted a neighbor.
The 8-year-old saw some of the attack on his mother and told the neighbor about 11:30 p.m. that his mother was dead, police said.
Lawrence A. Miller, 34, turned himself in to police shortly after the stabbing. He reportedly admitted to the killing, telling police he was upset Vandeventer wouldn’t stop seeing another man.
Less than three weeks before she was killed, Vandeventer filed an order of protection against Miller after he gave her a concussion during a fight and she fled to a domestic violence shelter.
The protection order was dismissed Sept. 6 after she failed to appear at a court hearing.
Vandeventer told court officials that Miller had physically and verbally abused her and her children since 2011. They reportedly shared the apartment at 1179 Dos Palos Court in Richland, though they recently had broken up.
Miller was charged Monday in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree murder. The charge includes four aggravating circumstances that could allow a judge to sentence Miller to a longer prison term if he is convicted.
The aggravating circumstances claim Miller used deliberate cruelty, caused excessive injuries, the crime affected people other than the victim and the crime involved domestic violence.
Prosecutors may consider a first-degree murder charge if there is evidence that supports premeditation, said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, who is not related to the suspect.
“As of right now, we don’t feel we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt to prove premeditated murder,” he said. “However, that is something that we will continue to reconsider as we work with the Richland Police Department.”
The autopsy showed Vandeventer bled to death from about 30 stab wounds to her torso and back, said Benton County Coroner John Hansens.
Vandeventer had 10 stab wounds to the front of her body, 11 to the groin area and nine in her back, officials said. Investigators believe Miller used a 4- to 6-inch knife from a kitchen drawer.
Miller told police he stabbed Vandeventer in the groin so she “would not have any sexual pleasures with any other boyfriend,” court documents said. Prosecutors allege Miller also gagged her with a T-shirt.
Vandeventer had bruises around her throat, neck and other areas of her body, Hansens said.
“This is an assault that moved throughout the house,” he said.
Officials did not say where in the apartment Vandeventer’s children were during the attack. One aggravating circumstance alleges the children were awake and saw at least some of the attack.
Her 8-year-old son reportedly saw Miller throw his mother to the floor and heard him grab a knife from a drawer, court documents said.
After stabbing Vandeventer, Miller called his mother and sister in Kent and told them “he had killed Beca,” court documents said. The women then called police.
The children — from Vandeventer’s previous marriage — were not injured and now are living with relatives, police said.
In court documents detailing the alleged abuse, Vandeventer claims she had to go the hospital with a concussion after a June 19 fight.
“Larry has a temper he can’t control,” she wrote.
Vandeventer took her children to a domestic violence shelter because she “was afraid of what he might do to me,” court documents said.
In the June incident, Vandeventer alleged Miller shoved her against a wall in their Kennewick apartment, causing the concussion.
Vandeventer then grabbed her children and ran to the main office of the apartment complex, court documents said. She locked herself in the office and eventually called police.
Vandeventer called a domestic violence hotline and took her children to a “secure location,” she said. She went to Kennewick General Hospital a few days later for a CT scan.
Kennewick police confirmed the June 19 incident. Police responded to the apartment at 5501 W. Hildebrand Blvd. and found probable cause to arrested Miller, though he already had left.
The case was referred to the city attorney, who charged Miller with misdemeanor domestic violence assault, police said. The outcome of the case was not available Monday.
In July, Vandeventer alleged Miller held her eldest son underwater until the boy couldn’t breathe. Miller knew the boy was afraid of water, she said.
In 2012, Vandeventer’s mom reportedly saw Miller shake her 1-year-old grandson while he was staying at her house, Vandeventer said.
“My parents immediately asked (Miller) to leave and not come back,” she wrote.
On separate occasions, including recently, Miller slammed Vandeventer’s middle son, now age 4, to the ground and against a wall, Vandeventer said. She said the boy, who seldom cries, burst into tears.
Vandeventer found out Miller had a history of violence while they were dating, she said. She claims his previous wife had a protection order against him.
Vandeventer tried to leave Miller several times, though he threatened her and told her “I will die without you,” she said. Vandeventer also claimed Miller would force her to give him her cellphone so he could go through it.
“(Miller) will not stop following me,” Vandeventer wrote. “I do not want to live my life in fear any longer.”
A friend of Vandeventer, Genie Prieto, said her former co-worker was starting to work toward her goal of becoming a special education teacher since her split from Miller.
Vandeventer, who originally is from Brazil, worked as a bilingual tutor for special education students in the Pasco School District. The district confirmed she was a tutor from 2003-05.
Vandeventer was hoping to get back into teaching after taking a break to care for her children, Prieto said. Before she was killed, Vandeventer confided in Prieto about some of the abuse.
“It was devastating to know she had so many hopes. And my fears of what could happen to her came true,” Prieto said. “Never did I think it was that bad.”
w Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org: Twitter; @Ty_richardson