The retrial of Shane Brewer, 34, accused of one of the area’s most notorious slayings, began today with opening arguments from Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Dasse and the defendant’s attorney, Jared Ausserer.
The initial trial, in March 2020, found Brewer guilty of several lesser charges, but the jury could not come to an agreement on the more serious charges of murder and robbery.
Brewer is accused of killing Loren VerValen, 45, on Dec. 22, 2018. VerValen’s shooting death on the 9000 block of Old Highway 99 Southeast was ruled homicidal violence by County Coroner Gary Warnock.
“I was set up,” Brewer allegedly told Thurston County deputies, when arrested on a total of 16 felony charges related to the homicide.
The Murder of Loren VerValen
Brewer has been accused of killing VerValen and taking his vehicle.
The person who discovered the victim’s deceased remains told investigators that a 2005 Honda Accord had been parked at the victim’s residence. Missing was the victim’s 2007 Ford Mustang. The Honda was registered to Brewer’s family members and left in Brewer’s control. Upon contact with investigators, Brewer claimed that the Honda was parked in VerValen’s driveway because he was at a party across the street, a claim which was denied by the homeowner of the party location, according to court reports.
An autopsy days later revealed by VerValen was murdered by three bullets from a .223 rifle, which investigators publicly deemed “suspicious,” ruling it a homicide.
Standing at five-feet-seven-inches with a shaven head and neck tattoo, the 235-pound Brewer was considered the prime suspect by Thurston County deputies within days of the investigation.
A search warrant obtained for Brewer’s residence on Dec. 27, 2018 caused discovery of VerValen’s stolen vehicle in Brewer’s garage, with its license plate tossed in a nearby bin and the car’s exterior altered. Also found in the garage was VerValen’s wallet, a duffle bag containing “large amounts of ammunition” and two firearms, including a .223, both of which were claimed by Thurston County Sheriff detectives to have been stolen from the Olympia Big 5 store during a burglary on Dec. 21, 2018. A burglary which proceeded the VerValen slaying by one day.
Brewer was always the prime suspect
Brewer was officially named a person of interest, deemed armed and dangerous, on December 28, 2018. His mug shot was spread on law enforcement social media accounts, deeming him armed and dangerous.
Brewer was brought into custody later that day, when his cell phone was pinged by Thurston County detectives, triangulating his location to a woman’s house. The 2005 Honda Accord was parked in front of her house. A third weapon was recovered from inside the residence, which matched another stolen item from the December 21, 2018 Olympia Big 5 robbery.
Brewer fled the woman’s house but was captured in a wooded area’s blueberry patch by Thurston County K-9 Dexter after failing to yield to officer commands. He was later placed on a $1 million bond.
Brewer’s attorney, Ausserer, filed several motions to suppress evidence during the first trial, including probable cause by detectives linking Brewer’s cell phone records to the crimes that he was accused of committing.
Since the 2020 mistrial, Brewer has remained in custody at the Thurston County jail, awaiting his second trial.
Both sides have prosecutorial experience in homicide cases
Dasse has five years practicing law, moving up the ranks to become a deputy prosecutor with the Thurston County office under long-time Prosecutor, Jon Tunheim.
Ausserer is formerly the Homicide Division Chief of the Special Assault Unit at the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, with years of experience working with state and federal investigators, prior to moving into private practice as a defense attorney.
The second trial of Shane Brewer is expected to last three to four weeks, running into mid-May 2021.