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On a blue, sunswept morning last May, the mountain is out, rising sugary-white above the mist. It will be 71 degrees by the time the Folklife festival kicks off the long Memorial Day weekend. In Renton on this gorgeous morn, David Hawron peers out his bedroom window and sees dark smoke pouring from an upper-floor window of the gray split-level next door. He calls 911. Below he notices two residents of this well-ordered neighborhood with garden hoses, doing what little they can. It is 7:48 a.m. Within 10 minutes, firefighters appear, EMTs, three ambulances, and a blaze of patrol cars, their blue-and-red lights flashing.
Hawron takes it all in: the churning smoke, the body being carried out in a fireman's arms, the futile efforts to restore a heartbeat with chest compressions, and then the sheet going over the corpse, covering the girl who used to knock on his door at holiday time toting a tin of green- and red-sprinkled cookies.
A half-hour goes by, and now he spots tall, gangly Doug Scholl, his next-door neighbor, running down Southeast 164th Street. Hawron has known him for 10 years, this happy-go-lucky guy with a lopsided, aw-shucks grin and a country twang, always ready to lend a helping hand.
Scholl, who left the house before 6 a.m. to get to work, has gotten a call in Auburn to hurry home. Hawron can hear the 44-year-old, a bindery manager at Printco, yelling over and over, "Is my dog all right?" No one could possibly be home except Ming, the family's beloved Pekingese/Pomeranian. Surely Jessica is at school, just across the way at Lindbergh High.
The fire has been extinguished, and Hawron watches in horror as his neighbor turns to the lump entombed beneath the sheet in the front yard of the four-bedroom house Scholl bought in 1996 for $137,000; the place he and Stephanie, his wife of 24 years, raised their only child, Jessica.
Hawron remembers Scholl asking him, his voice trembling, "What is that?"
And, Hawron continues, Doug Scholl then screamed, "Tell me, is she alive? Tell me, is she alive?"
"It is something I'll never forget," whispers Hawron.
A chaplain delivers the crushing news. Scholl will regret later, in a moment of despair, that he hadn't ducked his head into Jessica's room earlier that morning to say goodbye, as he'd done almost every day, or tickled her feet when he saw them sticking out from under the covers.
Several minutes after Doug learns his daughter is dead, Stephanie Scholl arrives, having rushed home in a panic from the pathology lab where she works in Fremont. She sprints to him, asking, "Doug, is Ming all right?" He hugs her tight and tells her not to let go. Finally, she asks, "Where's Jessica? Is she OK?"
"No," he says, gazing at the awful sheet in the yard of the smoldering home. He loosens the grip of his wife's embrace, looks into her anguished face, and says, "No."
"They told me, 'You don't want to see her this way. Better to keep a memory of her.' "
Five months from this hellish spring morning, Doug Scholl will tear this place down to its very foundation. He won't live in the house where he watched his beloved daughter grow into a confident, smart, and beautiful young woman who one day hoped to attend the Seattle Art Institute—the house where, on this day, Friday, May 25, 2011, she was murdered.
Two weeks earlier, Jessica, a 17-year-old junior, had called her boyfriend to say that their two-year relationship was over. Jarod Lane, 19, tried desperately to win her back, but nothing worked—not even the gold necklace with the diamond he bought her. She'd had enough. She told friends, teachers, her parents that he was too controlling. He became distraught, angry, depressed. Friends noticed cut marks on one of his forearms.
At 6:14 a.m. on May 25, Jessica texted Aundre Ruth, a guy she used to date and stayed friends with. It read "OMG." Ruth asked what was wrong, and, according to court records, she replied, "Jarod won't leave me alone...PLZ call him and tell him to leave me alone...PLZ."
Ruth phoned Lane. He was crying and said he wanted to "see her face one last time"—that if she agreed to do that, he'd leave her alone, according to the Renton police report.
Ruth called Jessica back and said to get hold of the police. She told him that if Lane came over, she'd just open the door a crack and yell at him, then he'd go away. Ruth didn't hear back from either one for nearly 30 minutes.
At 6:40 a.m., Lane arrived at Jessica's house. A student told police he saw the two yelling at each other on the front porch.
Then at 7:30, Lane called Ruth and, according to police, said something like " . . . maybe you should ask her out again, she needs someone. Hey, you should ask her out."
Ruth said Lane was very calm.
Seven months later, on a cold January afternoon, a pile of hay still covers the charred grounds at 12770 S.E. 164th St. where Doug and Stephanie's home once stood. Blue tarps, ruffling in the wind, cover parts of the lot, desolate save for Scholl's aluminum-paneled tool shed. On the frozen lawn, the excavator Doug Scholl used last fall to rip down the house remains. The insurance company said it would pay for a major rehab but not a full-out rebuild of the smoke-, water-, and fire-damaged dwelling. Fists clenched, Scholl describes taking the first blow at his own home with that purple wrecking machine, pulling down its whole front half.
As the demolition began, Scholl said he couldn't live in a house where his daughter had been murdered.
Puddles of Jessica's blood drenched the bathroom, her bedroom, a shower door, and the toilet. Blood streamed into the kitchen, where her body was discovered by firefighters two minutes after they doused the fire Jarod Lane had allegedly set on the second floor. A dented frying pan and a black knife with its blade broken off were also found. On the kitchen counter lay a fireplace poker, its point red with blood.
King County Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Harruff, who performed the autopsy, concluded that Jessica died from numerous stab wounds and blunt-force injuries, and that her killer had employed "multiple weapons." The autopsy also showed that she was dead before the fire started.
The dog, Ming, survived.
Doug Scholl tucks his lanky frame into a booth at the Puerto Vallarta Restaurant, a Mexican eatery in a large strip mall near Wild Waves in Federal Way. He comes here after work sometimes, just to sit by himself and have a beer or two, maybe some chips and salsa, and watch ESPN. He and Stephanie live close by, in Edgewood, where they moved with only the clothes on their back the day after their daughter's murder. They've been here since, in a furnished rancher his brother-in-law made available to them for as long as they need it.
"We had nothing," Scholl begins. "We stopped at a Fred Meyer, bought a toothbrush and a change of clothes."
Few of his new neighbors know why he's come to Edgewood. "I don't talk about it. I know one neighbor knows. She lost a son in Iraq."
Sipping a Bud Light, Scholl rehashes his haggles with his insurance company, now largely resolved: There should be enough money, along with some service donations from well-wishers, to build a new home in that same close-knit Renton neighborhood. The insurance company had wanted him simply to retrofit the house, to paint over the walls that had been covered by his daughter's blood. Recounting his decision to bring the house down, Scholl tears up, and after a painful moment he chokes out the words, "I wouldn't feel right living in there again. When it makes you sick to your stomach, how could you live there?"
After the murder, Scholl took three weeks off from the bindery job he's held for almost 11 years. "You don't sleep. You don't eat. You sit around and cry," he says. "Lots and lots and lots of crying, and you deal with stuff you never thought you'd ever deal with."
Now, eight months later, the shock has barely worn off. "I've been to counselors, and I'm not a big counselor person. I mean, what can they tell you? How many of them have gone through this?" He shakes his head. "Really, how many?"
Tina Harris, a domestic-victims advocate in the Renton Police Department, put the grieving couple in touch with the organization Families & Friends of Violent Crime Victims. They were supportive, of course, giving the Scholls a 31-page booklet, "Rebuilding Our Life After a Homicide." Its cover depicts a bright stream of sunlight illuminating the golden leaves and thick branches of a mighty oak. "Your anger, pain, and grief will be extensive," reads the introduction. "It will be a different life, but you can go on."
Did it help? No, not really, says Scholl. "I've tried to stay busy. You can't just sit and drown in your pity. They say it's supposed to get easier, but no, it doesn't get easier. It doesn't get easier at all. They say to try and remember the happy times, but, you know, that makes you cry too."
He's gone back to Renton a few times. On one visit in November, he discovered that his tool shed had been broken into. Three chainsaws and a nail gun, stolen. Enraged, he put a note in the toolbox of the shed's front porch: "It's bad enough that my daughter was murdered and my house was burned. Now you want to steal from me. I know you will rot in hell, and I hope someone shoots your lame ass."
Later, on another visit, he noticed that someone had cut down the little Douglas fir he'd transplanted from a backyard flowerpot into the ground in front of where his house once stood. It was just three feet tall.
Then, on the day after Thanksgiving, his wife's car, a 2000 Ford Escort, was hit by a tour bus and totaled. He tapped his daughter's $20,000 life-insurance money to buy a new car, a 2013 Ford Focus. "I kept the Escort," Scholl says, brightening. "Gonna make it into a Hornet race car."
Raised by a stepdad who owned a small tugboat business on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Doug Scholl grew up poor on an Indian reservation near Worley, Idaho. His mother is part Sioux. Scholl remembers killing his first chicken, for food, at age 5. It was a big deal, Scholl says, getting shoes to play basketball. Somehow he managed to get through high school, finishing in Spokane.
From his stepdad, Scholl learned how to work with his hands. He helped him build docks, decks, and storage sheds on the lake. "It was a seasonal business, and there wasn't much money. But you know, all that stuff builds courage."
The rough-and-tumble upbringing forged a deep craving to raise a family, to set up a nice, stable, normal home, with enough money for the occasional getaway—even an ocean cruise, which he was able to do. In the folds of his skinny black wallet, Scholl carries two pictures of Jessica. One was handed to him at her memorial service last June. The other is a color snapshot he and Stephanie took of a beaming Jessica on her 4th birthday, December 28, 1998, which they celebrated aboard a Princess cruise ship in the Caribbean.
Doug and Stephanie were both 26 when Jessica was born, a Christmas present three days delayed, in 1994. She came into the world at Group Health Central Hospital on Capitol Hill at 5:47 a.m. She weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 18 1/2 inches. Stephanie, a thin-boned third-generation Japanese woman who grew up on a remote slice of Whidbey Island, spent 18 hours in labor. For Jessica's middle name, they chose Kumiko, Japanese for "child of everlasting beauty."
Doug Scholl used to look forward to having his Jessica around when he got home in the late afternoon and she'd returned from her day at school. He still misses that hour or two together. "So now I come home in the afternoon to a quiet house and a dog."
Scholl concedes that his anger persists and that he can't seem to get past it. He says that shortly after the murder, he went to Renton City Hall to apply for a concealed-weapons permit. "They were kind of curious why I was doing that, and I finally said forget it—'It's too easy to shoot him. I'd rather just beat him with the end of it.'
"I've told prosecutors, 'Just put me in there for five minutes with him and we won't have this problem anymore.' "
The problem, of course, is Jarod T. Lane.
The teenager came into their life during Jessica's sophomore year. Their first date was Lindbergh High's homecoming dance in October 2011, the year Lane was finishing at Renton Technical School.
"He seemed fine," remembers Stephanie Scholl. "A little immature, but I attributed that to him being a boy. Only now when I look back, I can recall that he was very clingy and controlling. I remember once, Jessica agreed to babysit for my niece and nephew, and my sister told her that if she had anything else to do, it would be no problem. And Jarod goes, 'I'll make sure she's there.' And then there was a time I saw him hugging her, going, 'Mine, mine, mine.' I didn't like that."
Still, no real warning bells sounded, although both Doug and Stephanie wish they'd known that Lane was the subject of a sexual-assault civil-protection order. The order stemmed from a 2009 incident when Lane, a sophomore at Renton's Hazen High School, allegedly assaulted a 15-year-old classmate.
Though never charged with a crime, a King County judge barred him from attending Hazen, acting on a complaint from the girl's mother, who'd told the court—as The Seattle Times reported the day after the May 25 murder—that "her daughter had been severely traumatized after Lane pushed her against a wall at school and put his hand on her genitals."
After Lane transferred to Lindbergh in 2009—shortly after the order was handed down—the principal, Tres Genger, notified all teachers who would have Lane in their class to briefly explain what had happened at Hazen, says Renton School District spokesman Randy Matheson. "We had no problems with him" at Lindbergh, stresses Matheson.
It is not known whether Jessica was ever made aware of the civil-protection order.
Doug Scholl, meanwhile, took his daughter's boyfriend under his wing. "I tried to help the kid out," he recalls. He'd pay him to wash his car. Took him into the woods to shoot. Showed him how to change the oil in his car. Even brought him on a family vacation to visit Scholl's parents in Idaho, where the two cut firewood together.
All the while, though, Scholl remained the ever-protective father, laying down some firm rules: Lane was to be out of their home by 8 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends, and had to call before he came over. He grilled Lane on his driving record. Scholl can't forget the rage he felt when his good friend, Brian Hanson, noticed the hickey on Jessica's neck.
After ordering a second Bud Light at Puerto Vallarta, Scholl says, "About a month and a half ago, I had this vivid dream. My wife and Jess were sitting at my parents' house in Idaho, and there [Lane] is, standing there. And I get up and go over and put my arms around his neck, and I've got him in a chokehold and I'm dragging him off.
"And then Jess goes, 'No, Dad, it's OK.' I can picture this as clear as day."
Just after 8 a.m. that May morning, Jarod Lane's mother, Bobbi, called 911 after getting a call from her son. She told the dispatcher that Lane had told her, "I love you. I've done something wrong I'm not proud of. I have to run away."
Around that time—as Stephen Johnson, a friend of Lane's in Yuma, Ariz., later told Renton Det. Keith Hansen—Lane had phoned Johnson and said, "I killed her." Johnson said it was a short conversation, and that Lane didn't seem upset. He told him he planned to go to Mexico. With $1,000 in cash that he'd saved from his job at Red Dot in Tukwila—work Scholl's buddy Hanson had gotten him—and $300 in vacation money reportedly stolen from the Scholls, he sped off in his 2001 Mazda Protegé. At 8:29 a.m., recovered receipts show that he filled his tank at a 76 station in North Bend.
On Sunday, May 27, police in Enid, Okla., received a report of a possible sighting of Lane. The next morning, Memorial Day, a state trooper patrolling I-35 found Lane's abandoned car with a handwritten sign noting that he had gone to get gas. The trooper ran his plates and seized the vehicle. It was clear the car was linked to a homicide suspect.
The news was posted on the patrol's Facebook page to alert the media and to warn drivers not to pick up Lane along the road. That morning, a KFOR-TV reporter in Oklahoma City called to report that he and his photographer and seen the 5'9", 152-pound suspect on their way out to cover the story. Lane was arrested shortly afterward.
Earlier this month, in a police conference room on the second floor of Renton City Hall, Detectives Keith Hansen and Steve Morris recounted the red-eye flight they caught to Oklahoma City, arriving early Tuesday morning and heading straight to the county jail. "We wanted to talk to him before he got an attorney," says Hansen.
Clad in an orange prison jumper, Lane was brought to an interview room and read his rights. "He was willing to talk to us right away," continues Hansen, a personable man with short-cropped, graying hair and glasses. Lane was perfectly calm and talked to the detectives "like he was talking about a baseball game."
He confessed to the crime straightaway. "There was no remorse," Hansen says. "When he was going through all the gruesome stuff, it bothered me, but it didn't seem to bother him at all."
"This was one of the worst ones I have ever seen in my career," says Morris.
For a solid hour, the detectives questioned Lane. He killed Jessica because she refused to get back together. That was it. He offered no other motive.
After getting a search warrant, the detectives went through Lane's Mazda for several hours. They found Jessica's blood on napkins shoved under the seat, alongside blood-soaked clothing, maps, hotel receipts, and McDonald's bags.
Later that day, May 29, Lane, who waived extradition and later returned to Washington, was charged with first-degree murder. Bail was set at $2 million. He pleaded not guilty on June 13, 2012, and remains at the King County Jail.
Says Doug Scholl: "I prayed for him to plead guilty."
A hearing to set a trial date is scheduled for March 11. Lane's public defenders, Robert Jourdan and John Ostermann, have declined all comment on the case.
It was Kara Crum, her favorite teacher at Lindbergh High, a woman she felt she could confide in, whom Jessica sought out two weeks before her death. She wanted to talk about problems with her boyfriend and her intention to split up with him.
For 10 years, Crum has taught independent-living and child-development classes at Lindbergh. She knew both Jessica and Lane well. In fact, Lane had gone to her for advice on how to ask Jessica to the homecoming dance two years prior.
"He had his ups and downs, and struggled with his emotions," says Crum. She noticed his dramatic mood swings; the time he punched his locker so hard his hand turned black and blue; his need to be liked by everyone. "He could be a little bit aggressive, but again, there was really nothing on my radar to think that he would ever hurt anyone." As for Jessica, "She was shy and quiet, but very infectious around her friends. She could light up a room. She didn't lack for self-confidence."
When Jessica came and told her she wanted to break it off with Lane, Crum recalls giving her information about dating and relationships, including the number of a crisis line to call to cope with a breakup. "I was really there just to give her support and tell her that I knew it was going to be hard."
Ten days before the murder, on May 15, Jessica told Crum she was going to end it that night with a phone call. The next day she reported that it went badly—Lane had become so furious that she'd hung up on him.
For Jessica, that final week was a living hell. Lane kept calling and texting. Friends began to walk her home, and told her she shouldn't be alone. Stephanie Scholl says it got to the point that her daughter was afraid he'd show up at her school and cause a scene, and that police would have to be called.
Crum says school security was alerted on Wednesday, May 23—the last time Crum would ever speak to Jessica—and told that Jarod Lane was not to be allowed on campus. "I still [wonder], even now, what could I have done. What should I have known? How could I have ever known? God, I mean, never in my wildest dreams," says Crum, "did I think I would lose a student this way."
Powerful memories come flooding back as, in her temporary home in Edgewood, Stephanie Scholl reflects on her daughter's life.
How to put in it words? How does a parent capture the essence of a child, a daughter, so dearly loved and convey it to stranger with a notepad? She loved fashion, Bugs Bunny cartoons, video games, wrestling with her dad, hanging out at home, going to the ocean, sunning by the pool, cooking rice with every meal she prepared, singing, hip-hop dancing, watching Family Guy and Swamp People, laughing. She was popular, a member of the honor society at Lindbergh High, kind and caring.
As her mother puts it, "She was just beginning to bloom."
One of the hardest things, Stephanie continues, "was making a list, like the insurance company wanted us to do, of everything we'd lost. Imagine writing down everything in your house. Imagine sitting down after this and writing everything in your house."
Here, in the living room, the Scholls have gradually amassed a sort of shrine to Jessica. Pictures of her line the walls. There is artwork a fellow student made in her honor. The maple cabinet in the corner, four shelves tall, is filled with stuffed animals and touching farewell notes.
Their daughter's death, says Stephanie, has made her marriage stronger, brought her and Doug closer together, for now they have only each other. Both of them are keenly attuned to each other's moods, especially the down times when the pain is most searing. For Doug, afternoons are worst; for Stephanie, the evenings are when she remembers being in the kitchen, cooking and talking with Jessica.
It was a difficult decision, tearing down the house. "So many memories of her were there growing up, and then it being the place where she died. So I wondered, 'Is her spirit there?' "
Tina Harris, the domestic-victims advocate, notes that the Scholls did not ask for much from the house. There was so much else to do: the autopsy, the clean-up, the insurance issues, the cremation in June at Auburn's Klontz Funeral Home.
"They told me they just wanted her quilted baby blanket," Harris says. Made by Doug's sister, it has bears on the front and a pink backing, Jessica's name embroidered in Japanese letters. "A detective found it, all soppy, wet, and smoky, and he brought it to me. I had it laundered, and I gave it to them."
Stephanie Scholl, the mother of Jessica Kumiko Scholl, her eyes swelling with tears, confides, "You know, late last summer I thought I was forgetting the sound of her voice. And then I heard her—I heard, 'Mom, Mom, Mom.' "
She looks over at Doug and adds, "I don't think I'll ever get her face or her voice out of my head, ever."