Crime

Man charged in death of Orting mom

When an Orting mother disappeared after a first date with a man she met online, he had an account ready.

Jonathan Daniel Harris, 29, told investigators that Nicole White gave him a ride home to Graham on June 6 but first stopped at a convenience store so he could use the restroom.

When he went back to the parking lot, he said, White was gone and did not answer her cellphone when he dialed from a pay phone.

Except the gas attendant said he never saw Harris, customers are not allowed to use the bathroom in the early morning hours for safety reasons, and there is no pay phone outside the business.

On Tuesday, Pierce County prosecutors charged Harris with second-degree murder in White’s death. He is to appear in court Wednesday.

White, a 28-year-old mother, was missing for two weeks before her body was found Saturday at the bottom of a steep ravine in a heavily wooded area of Kapowsin. It had been wrapped in canvas and a green tarp.

Medical examiners have yet to determine a cause of death because White’s body was badly decomposed. They identified her based on a leg tattoo.

Harris and White met on an online dating site and agreed to meet June 6 at Jeepers Country Bar & Grill in Spanaway. She picked him up that night.

Surveillance footage showed the two together inside the bar. It also showed Harris angrily smashing beer bottles in the beer garden and on the dance floor after arguing with White, according to a search warrant.

Witnesses recalled seeing the two leave together in White’s Dodge Neon.

White’s mother reported her missing the next day when White didn’t come home for her 3-year-old son or show up for work at the Bonney Lake Walmart. Her car was found partially over an embankment near 70th and 260th avenues east near Graham.

Searchers scoured that area and even drained a nearby pond. They found no sign of her.

When investigators questioned Harris, he denied seeing White after their stop at the convenience store. Detectives noted he appeared nervous when they interviewed him and had a panic attack when they asked what he did June 7.

Immediately after White went missing, Harris deleted his Facebook account and traded in his cellphone, a search warrant says.

His account of his time with White already appeared to be unraveling.

Neighbors recalled hearing a woman screaming about 4 a.m. before the screams abruptly stopped. A hooded sweatshirt found in his house had White’s blood on it.

Harris’ mother and brother told investigators they had seen blood inside the house, but Harris told them “the dogs had chewed up a rabbit and brought it inside the house,” according to a warrant.

A metal tool box on Harris’ truck emitted “a foul odor of a bleach type chemical smell and rotting meat smell,” documents state.

Detectives and FBI agents arrested Harris on unrelated weapons charges after finding ammunition in his home.

He is not allowed to possess firearms or ammunition because of a 2009 conviction on second-degree assault for firing a loaded shotgun at a group of people in Sumner. No one was hurt.

Technology helped detectives find White’s body, according to charging papers.

On June 7, Harris drove in his Ford F250 pickup truck to where White’s body was found, the papers say. The truck has an ignition interlock device that requires Harris to blow into it before starting the vehicle. The device also takes photos.

Detectives found a photo of Harris starting the truck in a wooded area and used cellphone records to narrow down the spot, records show. A search dog then discovered White’s body in the ravine.

No cause of death has been determined, but investigators believe Harris, who is 6 feet 7 and 270 pounds, beat White, who was 4 feet 11 and 110 pounds, to death. She suffered a fractured skull, eye socket and sternum and several broken ribs, according to the medical examiner.

When detectives first interviewed Harris after White’s disappearance, they noted abrasions on his knees and right arm, as well as a swollen wrist.

He told them he was hurt after falling off a bar stool at Jeepers, charging papers indicate. The bartender denied Harris ever fell or got hurt.

Staff writer Adam Lynn contributed to this report.

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