SPOKANE, Wash. – It’s been more than a decade since the vicious, double murder of two Spokane residents rocked our entire region. An arrest and swift conviction in the case followed, but several years later, the wait for prosecutors to release some precious family photos and mementos taken from the scene as evidence, continues.


 “We were told that early on in the investigation, a silver lining or what not in all this, that (this crime against my brother and Sarah) took a serial killer off the streets…cut his career short,” said Katie Hayes.

Justin Crenshaw was convicted in the Spokane County Courthouse of brutally murdering Sarah Clark, 18, and Tanner Pehl, 20. He attempted to destroy evidence by also lighting the Pehl Family home on fire, but detectives were still able to find a fingerprint of his at the scene. Crenshaw will spend the rest of his life in prison while the many loved ones of the victims try to get on with theirs.

For Katie Hayes, the pain has been indescribable.

“(Tanner) and I always had a special connection,” she said. “When he was born, I was seven. We grew up really close, I was the only sister with three brothers. He was the youngest.”

The baby, the light of this family's life, who went on be that for so many others.

"People were always drawn to him,” she said. “Tanner loved to cook, he loved to play music, he loved strangers. His love of people is what’s always been so significant. It makes me happy to talk about him. I try to keep his memory alive.”

It’s all she has left.

“He was murdered February 28, 2008,” she said. “He was stabbed to death.”

By a man he barely knew.

“We were like who? Who is Justin Crenshaw? I don't even like saying his name.”

Crenshaw had only been in Spokane a few weeks. He was a recovering addict from Las Vegas looking to start over.

“And he just happened to get a job where my brother worked,” she said.

Tanner was kind to him.

“Tanner had brought Justin over a couple times, my mom met him,” she said.

Tanner invited his new co-worker over again, this time, Sarah was there too. Only one person would walk out of the gathering alive.

"SCSO had it locked down for a solid 48 hours, they had guards at the door,” she said. “It was horrific.”

Katie says investigators had told them had other family members been home at the time of the murders, they likely would have been victims too. The killing was brutal with evidence indicating Justin Crenshaw continued to attack even after his victims were deceased.

“I think Tanner had 12 or 14 post mortem stab wounds,” she said.

Precious family mementos, turned pawns to stage the scene.

“Justin had ransacked the house making it look like a robbery,” she said. “Everything was in disarray. Our whole childhood was on the floor and there was blood and bloody footprints everywhere. He also did very sadistic things. He took every picture off the wall, every single picture that my mom had up of all of us and he had placed them all down. Almost like he didn't want people looking at him.”

Those photos were just some of hundreds of pieces of evidence bagged up and presented at the double murder trial. A trial at which, Crenshaw continued to taunt his victim’s family.

"He was walking out (of the courtroom with guards) and he stepped out of the path and went wink wink and a kissy face to me,” Katie said. “That's when I thought I was going to die.”

He was not permitted to walk by the families after that as his trial continued. Katie says they were shocked to hear his defense.

"He went into this really strange defense with a doctor saying if he has even one drink of alcohol, he goes into blind rages and doesn't remember anything,” Katie said.

The jury didn't buy it. Case closed. And all of that evidence, or in the family's eyes, irreplaceable ties to Tanner, would surely be returned. Or so they thought. But years later, it all still sits in an evidence locker.

"If they would just give a really good reason, okay, but it's just sitting there,” she said. “The guitar is the most important thing (they have in the evidence locker.) That guitar was a gift from my dad to my mom on their anniversary. It's the guitar all three of my brother's learned to play on.”

But it was Tanner who loved it most. Playing it was likely the last thing he ever did.

“When he died, he had his guitar on him,” Katie said. “He made his own strap, tying bandanas together. And I saw (it in) the crime scene photos.”

They know why it was taken by investigators as the case played out in the justice system, but simply cannot fathom why it’s still there.

“If they could just try to understand, just a glimpse into what that would mean,” she said.

Everything. For a family who wants the music to play on from the guitar, Tanner’s guitar.

The family turned to our Help Me Hayley for assistance. As of Thursday, prosecutors say they are looking into whether or not anything can be given back to them. They say protocol is to keep evidence that was admitted into trial in their custody until all appeals for the defendant have been exhausted.

Katie says she understands that, but says items the family have gotten back over the years have only further upset them.

"They gave (my mom) back evidence they didn't need anymore including a bloody sheet (or towel),” she said. “That is not a joke, this is really what she got back.”

She and the rest of their family are hoping prosecutors will hear their pleas to get these items back, saying they can’t even express how much it would help them in their healing process.

The family has done what they could to move on over the past several years. Each year, on the anniversary of Tanner’s death, they all get together and rent a beach house. Friends and loved ones from all over the country fly in for the event. They spend the entire weekend honoring Tanner, telling stories, and just enjoy being together.

Katie says she’s tried to live a life to make her baby brother proud.

“He inspires me every single day,” she said.

And as far as the man who took her brother from this world? Katie says their family refuses to give him one once of energy.

“I have this internal competition with Justin Crenshaw. It's vulnerable to say that out loud, but I do,” she said. “He's not going to take anything else from me. Not my happiness, my career, not anything. Nothing else.”

Justin Crenshaw has found himself in trouble even while behind bars. In 2014, he faced additional chargers after witnesses allege he tried to slit the throat of another inmate.


As soon as Help Me Hayley gets an update from prosecutors on whether or not the Pehl Family can get their property back, we will share that with you right away.