POST FALLS - The male suspect in custody for Monday's apparent murder in Post Falls told a family member that he had injured his live-in girlfriend, police say.
The suspect, Christopher Wayne Thompson, 44, Post Falls, was booked into the Kootenai County jail for second-degree murder.
During his first appearance on Tuesday, the charge was amended to first-degree murder and his bond was set at $1 million.
Deborah A. Willette, 57, Post Falls, was identified as the victim by police on Tuesday afternoon after next of kin, who live outside the area, were notified.
"A family member (of Thompson's) was concerned and called us," Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug said, referring how officers found out about the incident. "When we responded, we found her dead in the apartment. There's a lot of trauma to the body.
"His comments to his relatives is what led us to go there."
Prosecutors said during Tuesday's court appearance that it appears there was a struggle between the two based on bruises on the victim's body and that the victim had her throat slit.
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh declined to comment further, citing a pending case.
Haug declined to comment on any investigation details such as evidence and what, if any, statements from Thompson describe what led up to the apparent attack.
"We're not going to talk about the cause of death as we're still actively working the case and don't want to jeopardize it," Haug said.
Haug said it is believed Thompson acted alone and no one else was at the apartment during the alleged crime.
"The public can feel confident that we have the one and only suspect in custody," Haug said. "Now we're going to take the big puzzle and put the pieces together."
Thompson has no previous bookings in the local jail. Drug charges are also pending based on evidence found at the apartment, Haug said. Thompson could face the death penalty if convicted.
The incident occurred at the Treaty Rock Apartments, 701 N. Compton, next to Perfection Tire off Seltice Way.
Haug declined to say whether Thompson confessed to committing the alleged crime to detectives.
Haug said police have responded to the apartment multiple times due to reports of verbal arguments and possible drug activity. He said the last time police responded was in June. No arrests were made.
Sheila Tolley, a Post Falls woman who is a caretaker of the resident who lives in the apartment below Thompson's, said she heard commotion coming from upstairs early Monday morning but nothing during the daytime hours.
"I heard stuff getting slammed around, like the place was getting ripped apart," she said.
She describes Thompson as being "controlling."
"(Willette) was very afraid of him," Tolley said. "You can tell she was scared to death. I was scared of him myself. I've wondered if they'd ever carry someone in a body bag from that place, but I was talking about drugs."
Tolley said she could smell chemicals coming from the apartment to the point she once got sick.
"All night long they'd leave the bathtub running," she said.
A female neighbor, who declined to be identified, said she's glad that Thompson is out of the apartment with his arrest. She said the two have been living there at least two years. Haug said he heard the two were engaged.
Police responded to the apartment complex at 4:40 p.m. for a welfare check.
"A caller (a relative of Thompson's) reported that they were concerned for the welfare of a female at the residence," a police press release states. "Officers responded to the residence and were unable to get a response. Officers forced their way into the residence and found a female deceased on the floor."
Haug said the suspect fled the apartment after the alleged incident and went to a relative's residence about 3 miles away in Post Falls. When police responded, Thompson was arrested without incident about an hour after Willette's body was found.
"He earlier had made comments about wanting police to kill him," Haug said, referring to a previous incident involving Thompson. "The officers showed good restraint without incident. The suspect came out of the house and gave himself up. At first, we thought we'd have more trouble than that."
The Public Defender's Office on Tuesday declined a request to interview Thompson.
Larry Inman, whose name and number is posted at the apartments as the contact person for the complex, couldn't be reached for comment.
The Idaho State Police crime lab is assisting Post Falls Police in the investigation. An autopsy was performed on Willette on Tuesday, but police declined to comment on the preliminary findings.
The apparent murder is the first in Post Falls since October 2010 when there was a murder-suicide.
An investigation continues.