A 36-year-old Auburn man faces a second-degree murder charge for allegedly beating his girlfriend to death in a Kent hotel during an incident that took Kent Police 52 minutes to respond to the initial 911 call.
At about 10:56 a.m. on Monday, June 14, a member of hotel security at the Ramada Inn, 22318 84th Ave. S., called 911 and said there was a “very violent” 911 situation and “we have someone getting murdered in 214!” according to charging papers filed against Phillip Jonathan Lopez.
Kent Police officers were dispatched but had to divert for another call involving a subject with a weapon, according to probable cause documents.
At 11:26 a.m., the security member called 911 regarding the time delay and expressing imminent concern for the woman’s safety. He said the man “was really beating her really bad.”
At 11:43 a.m., Lopez called 911 to report his girlfriend, Amber M. Keith, 33, had overdosed on opiates and was not conscious and not breathing. He said she had been unconscious for about 5 minutes prior to his call.
At around 11:48 a.m., while Lopez was still on the phone with 911, the 911 call receiver instructed him to open the hotel door for King County medics to enter and he complied.
Two Kent Police officers arrived moments later, according to court documents, 52 minutes after the initial 911 call.
Medics found Keith lying supine on the floor with blood coming from her nose and mouth and she did not have a pulse. Lopez was the only other person in the room. Medics attempted live-saving measures, but pronounced Keith dead at 12:07 p.m.
When questioned by the Kent Reporter about the 52-minute response time to the 911 call, Kent Police Cmdr. Robert Hollis issued the following response.
“Those questions can be answered by Valley Com Communications, the organization that does our dispatching,” Hollis said in a June 18 email. “They may be able to provide some better answers for you.”
When reached, Valley Communication Center released the following statement.
“We are aware of the incident and looking into what occurred,” said Angee Bunk, Valley Comm operations manager, in a June 18 email. “I have no further information at this time.”
Police arrested Lopez at the hotel. Officers observed fresh cuts on his left hand and blood on his face and that he was sweating profusely. Those observations and the initial report of a fight in the room led officers to detain Lopez.
Lopez told detectives during an interview at the Kent Police Station that he had been dating Keith for about seven years. He said she had overdosed on opiates and he tried to perform CPR. He claimed he did not hit Keith and that they had not been fighting. After about 20 minutes, detectives noted Lopez became frustrated with the amount of questions and requested an attorney, which stopped the interview.
A hotel housekeeper initially reported to security about a disturbance in room 214. The security officer went to the room and heard sounds of a violent struggle. He listened for about 2 minutes before calling 911 the first time.
The hotel security officer and a front desk staff member knocked on the room door, but nobody opened it. They tried using an electronic master key, but they were unable to bypass the interior security swing latch.
Lopez is scheduled to be arraigned at 9:30 a.m. on June 30 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. He is in custody at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle with bail set at $3 million.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the hotel room and found nearly $30,000 in cash as well as drugs with an estimated street value of $6,000, according to court documents. There were large amounts of suspected methamphetamine, heroin, Xanax and over 1,000 fentanyl pills. Detectives also found a loaded 9mm pistol concealed under a mattress.
Lopez had numerous felony convictions, including theft of a motor vehicle in 2019, third-degree assault in 2016 and first-degree theft in 2016. He also has numerous misdemeanor convictions from resisting arrest in 2018 and vehicle prowling in 2019.
An autopsy of Keith by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office showed bruising on her face, a cut above her eye and a bruise in the center of her neck near her throat. Hemorrhaging was found in the inner neck. The injuries were consistent with direct pressure to the neck and throat.
Initial examination revealed Keith’s blood tested positive for various narcotics and opiates. Her blood was sent to the State Patrol Toxicology Lab for a full analysis.
The medical investigation is still ongoing and no official cause of death was released by the Medical Examiner’s Office, although it did determine Keith did not die of natural causes.
This is the 25th murder charge in King County in 2021 and the eighth in Kent. Kent had eight homicides for all of 2020. The city had had four homicides in 2019 and seven in 2018.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated with responses from Kent Police and Valley Communications Center.