Jamel Alexander, on trial a second time for the 2019 murder of Shawna Brune, listens to his defense give opening statements on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jamel Alexander, on trial a second time for the 2019 murder of Shawna Brune, listens to his defense give opening statements on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

EVERETT — After his murder conviction was overturned, a man went on trial Tuesday for the second time in three years for allegedly stomping an Everett woman to death.

The trial in Snohomish County Superior Court comes 4½ years after Shawna Brune, 29, was found killed near a parking lot off the 11600 block of Highway 99.

In 2021, a jury convicted Jamel Alexander, 34, of first-degree murder. A judge sentenced him to nearly 29 years in prison. At the time, Alexander’s defense attorneys argued their client would have been acquitted if jurors had known about evidence that was suppressed in the first trial.

The excluded evidence resulted in the state Court of Appeals overturning Alexander’s conviction.

In their April 2023 ruling, the appellate court held that two pieces of evidence — someone else allegedly admitting to the murder and a diary entry that raised questions about the time of Brune’s death — should have been heard by jurors.

“Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to learn about the life and violent death of a woman named Shawna Brune,” deputy prosecutor Bob Langbehn said in his opening statement Tuesday. “Shawna was not an office worker in a cubicle, not a teacher. Shawna was a sex worker. She lived a life in the shadows, taking strangers places where people would not see, where there would be no witnesses.”

At 9 a.m. Oct. 12, 2019, a man walking his dog found Brune’s body. She was nude, with shoe print marks across her body.

The night before, around 9 p.m., security footage showed Brune going into the woods with a man wearing a maroon Puma jacket, a knit cap with an Oakland Raiders logo and Vans shoes.

Surveillance footage showing Shawna Brune at a convenience store the night of her death is displayed during opening statements in the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Surveillance footage showing Shawna Brune at a convenience store the night of her death is displayed during opening statements in the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Detectives identified Alexander as the man in the footage. Alexander later reported to sheriff’s detectives he paid Brune for sex, but repeatedly claimed he did not harm her. He reported Brune was alive when he left her, Langbehn said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors presented the footage of Alexander walking with Brune behind the apartment complex before disappearing. The two entered the area around 9:03 p.m., before going behind a van in a parking lot. At 9:35 p.m., Alexander left the complex alone.

“This will be the last footage of Shawna Brune alive,” Langbehn said.

Defense attorney Rachel Forde shows surveillance footage from an apartment parking lot during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Defense attorney Rachel Forde shows surveillance footage from an apartment parking lot during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

At the scene, Alexander’s DNA was found on the knit cap, along with Brune’s blood, according to court documents. His DNA was also on some of Brune’s clothes and her body. Police noted a shoe’s tread pattern throughout the crime scene. The pattern matched a Vans-type shoe — the kind of shoes Alexander appeared to be wearing in the security footage, Langbehn said.

That night, Alexander walked away on Highway 99. He got on a bus and eventually ended up in a convenience store. While in line, Alexander looked down at his shoes — stained with red splotches. The carpet in the convenience store was taken to a crime lab to be tested for Brune’s blood. None was found, defense attorney Rachel Forde said Tuesday.

In a police interview, Alexander identified the Vans shoes and Puma jacket as his, and he claimed the clothes could be found in his apartment. Authorities were unable to find any of the clothes, according to court documents.

At the scene, police found Brune’s diary in her purse. One entry, dated the night of her murder, appeared to be a handwritten note dated at 10 p.m. — after Alexander was seen leaving the area.

“Dead people can’t write in their diary,” defense attorney Rachel Forde said to the jury. “That’s the first of many pieces of evidence in this case that was ignored.”

The final entry read:

“I went to Rocky’s for the first time. He thinks it was me that took his (expletive) but I can tell Casey doesn’t think so and is trying to get me back.”

Forde said investigators were so “blinded” by the security footage of Alexander and Brune together that they let other important leads go cold.

A week after her body was found, Brune’s boyfriend reported to police that he had run into two people who lived in the same apartment complex as them and sold drugs to Brune, court documents said. The boyfriend told police one of them described beating her to death in great detail, Forde said.

Police never interviewed the woman who purportedly confessed to killing Brune, Forde said.

The initial trial court excluded the testimony as hearsay. Superior Court Judge George Appel based his decision on the fact the woman who allegedly made the statements refused to testify, making her unavailable for cross-examination.

Forde noted that an apartment within the complex was known for drug-related activity and people constantly coming and going. Brune’s body was found on the trail leading toward that apartment, Forde said.

In the first trial, detective Brad Walvatne testified he reviewed 15½ hours of security footage taken from the camera at the apartment complex the night of the murder and the morning after, court documents said.

The detectives testified he saw a motion detection light come on near the trail where Brune’s body was discovered. That night, three men appeared in the surveillance footage. The manager of the apartment complex reported she did not know who the men were, court documents said.

Police made a copy of the video covering the hours from 8 to 10 p.m. He said he tasked another detective with preserving the entire footage. Walvatne testified that he later went to look for the additional footage, but it was lost.

“This case demanded that law enforcement work diligently to find Shawna Brune’s killer, even though she was someone who lived on the street, used drugs, and sold her body to pay for a habit,” Forde said. “If you expect a thorough investigation, you will be disappointed.”

Judge William Steffener is overseeing the second trial. It’s expected to last three weeks.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Tacoma-based MultiCare’s partnership expands reach in Snohomish County

MultiCare and Overlake say they will “invest significantly to meet the growing health care needs of the Eastside and North Sound communities.”

A BNSF train crosses Grove St/72nd St, NE in Marysville, Washington on March 17, 2022. Marysville recently got funding for design work for an overcrossing at the intersection. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Eighth Street in Marysville closed 8 days for railroad repairs

The road was closed this week between Cedar Avenue and Delta Avenue in Marysville.

A mountain goats in the North Cascades east of Marblemount in August 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Ahead of grizzly arrival, wildlife advocates assess past translocations

Moving animals has helped struggling populations to rebound. And advocates point to past examples as evidence that “it’s not ethical to do nothing.”

Julie Timm
Sound Transit’s $375K payout to ex-CEO didn’t buy help

Board members said Julie Timm would give professional advice to them or a future CEO after leaving, but she hasn’t been called upon.

FILE -- An engine on a Boeing 767 jet aircraft, at a Boeing facility in Everett, Wash., March 7, 2012. The Boeing 737 engine that failed on Southwest Flight 1380 is not the only one that has caught the eye of regulators: Engines on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and 767 have also failed, prompting questions about their design and inspection procedures. (Stuart Isett/The New York Times)
Boeing 767, built in Everett, gets 5-year lifeline from Congress

Boeing would have been forced to end production of the 767 Freighter in 2027 due to new emissions rules if not for the extension.

Snohomish County Jail. (Herald file)
Inmate, 51, dies at Snohomish County Jail

Around 3 p.m., corrections staff called 911 about an inmate, who became unresponsive as firefighters arrived. He died at the scene.

With the Olympic mountains in the background, Boeing's 777x lifts off from Paine Field on its first flight, to Boeing Field in Seattle, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
1 dead, dozens injured after turbulence on Boeing plane

A Singapore Airlines flight from London was diverted to Bangkok, where more than 70 people were being treated for injuries.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Idaho man identified in fatal trooper shooting on I-5 near Everett

The deceased man was Marvin Arellano, 31, of Nampa, Idaho, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos provided)
Did Bob Ferguson go too far responding to fellow Fergusons?

Ferguson wanted the secretary of state to redo the ballot. Mark Mullet, a Democratic rival, says such a move would’ve broken the law.

Photo by Gina Shields of GM Photography
Whidbey Island to salute the fallen for Memorial Day

All are invited to honor those who have fallen at three events on Whidbey Island.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.