OLATHE, Kan. — The 26-year-old man accused of killing his girlfriend, Ashley Harlan, and their unborn child faced the judge Friday afternoon.
It’s a stark contrast from the last time the public saw Devonte Wash, with his head bowed down as Harlan’s grieving family desperately pleaded for tips to solve the case.
Olathe police found Harlan dead inside her grandfather’s townhouse on the 1200 block of East Westerfield Place on Jan. 30.
On Friday, the family of the 23-year-old woman filled the front row of the courtroom.
“We want to send a big thank you to the Olathe Police Department for all their hard work for pursuing the truth and making this arrest. It's huge for our family. We look forward to getting justice for Ashley and for her baby boy,” Nikki Chapman, Harlan’s aunt, told 41 Action News after the hearing.
The Johnson County District Attorney's Office charged Wash with capital murder for a specific reason.
“Both are victims in this case, the mother and her unborn child, and so by Kansas law that counts two different people,” Steve Howe, the Johnson County District Attorney, said. “Under the law, it doesn't matter at what number of weeks in the gestation the mother is.”
Howe added his office has filed two other similar cases in the past.
Wash has a history of violence against women.
According to court records, police arrested Wash in 2011 and 2013 for domestic battery against an ex-girlfriend.
In the latter case, she filed an order of protection against him in which she wrote that Wash allegedly punched her, pulled her hair, and slammed her on the floor.
In Harlan’s case, law enforcement believes Wash didn’t act alone.
“We are aware, as part of our investigation, that there are people who have knowledge of it and we haven’t identified those individuals,” Howe said.
Harlan’s family is once again asking for help from the public.
“We want to make sure this is a solid case. We need as many tips to come in. The reward money is still there. Please, if you know anything, we want justice for our niece. Please. Please,” Chapman said.
The district attorney said his office is still considering the death penalty. They don't have to reach a decision until Wash undergoes his preliminary hearing.
At Friday’s hearing, attorneys Mark Manna and Jeff Dazey with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit said they are representing Wash.
Wash is being held on a $5 million bond. He goes back to court on May 3 at 11:45 a.m. in division 8.