LEWISTON, ID - A 40-year-old Pullman woman has been arrested in connection with a body that was dumped in an alley in North Lewiston more than a year ago. Jalene Powaukee was booked into the Nez Perce County Jail Monday on a warrant for Involuntary Manslaughter after she was indicted by a Nez Perce County grand jury.
Powaukee was previously charged with Failure to Notify or Delay Notification of a Death and a Persistent Violator charge in March 2022. Those charges were dismissed without prejudice by the Nez Perce County Prosecutor's Office on June 7th.
The case is related to the overdose death of 24-year-old Desmond Oatman on March 18, 2022.
According to a Probable Cause Affidavit, at around 6:47 p.m. Lewiston Police Department officers responded to the area behind 315 20th Street North for a report of an unconscious man lying face-down in the alley. He was later identified as Oatman.
"Police and LFD paramedics attempted to resuscitate Oatman, and transported him to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center where he was declared dead at 1934 hours," the affidavit says, adding that "Oatman was cold to the touch and his lips were blue, but they did not know how long he had been in the alley before he was found."
Officers reviewed video footage from three surveillance cameras directly north of the alley where Oatman's body was found. It showed a red SUV pull into the alley. Just after 5:46 p.m., a female reportedly got out of the driver's seat of the SUV, then dragged Oatman's body from the passenger side, and left him on the ground. The SUV then quickly left the scene.
Officers gleaned a partial license plate number from the SUV while viewing this footage on scene and relayed that to dispatch to search for any possible matches.
Dispatchers soon found a 2001 Honda CR-V that had a Washington license plate. It was later discovered parked at the Clearwater River Casino and by then law enforcement officers had allegedly identified Powaukee as the probable driver.
After reviewing casino surveillance, she was found to have been at the casino at around 2:40 p.m. wearing the same clothing and hairstyle as those of the SUV driver. She left and then returned to the casino at 5:01 p.m. wearing the same clothes with an added headband with a large flower on it - clothing which had been identified as similar to those worn by the driver of the SUV when Oatman's body was allegedly dumped.
Powaukee again left the casino in the red SUV at around 5:26 p.m. wearing the same clothing. The vehicle was first seen in the area where Oatman's body was discovered at 5:32 p.m.
Additional surveillance reportedly shows Powaukee had returned to the casino later that evening; and at 12:15 a.m., she left and walked out to the SUV where she was detained by police.
"Powaukee said she "Kind of" knew Desmond Oatman. She denied leaving him or his body in the alley in North Lewiston," the affidavit says, adding that "the further investigation made it clear to [a detective] that Powaukee was in fact the woman from the surveillance footage and she had altered her appearance by changing her clothing and hairstyle before he interviewed her on 3/18/22."
Meanwhile, Oatman's autopsy findings were returned on May 6th.
"The cause of death was ruled to be multi-drug intoxication involving methamphetamine, ethanol and fentanyl," according to the affidavit. "Desmond Oatman's death is one that would have been investigated by law enforcement because it was an unattended drug overdose. Surveillance footage shows that Oatman did not move at all while Powaukee dragged him from the vehicle, nor did he move after being left in the alley."
Officials say video evidence allegedly shows that Powaukee had custody of Oatman's body and did not notify law enforcement or the coroner.
"Powaukee left the body in a secluded alley and then left with the vehicle in which Oatman most-likely died. Powaukee changed her clothing and [hairstyle] after leaving the body. She never attempted to contact law enforcement, and additionally provided false statements about not being in Oatman's company that day," according to the affidavit. "These actions severely impeded law enforcement's ability to discover the manner of Oatman's death, and, therefore, are evidence of Powaukee's intent to prevent law enforcement from discovering the manner of Oatman's death.
Powaukee's arraignment is set for tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. in Lewiston.