Could podcast on mysterious killing of Zachary Lamb help solve Spokane cold case?
The podcast begins where Zachary Lamb’s life ended – on the tree-lined streets of the lower South Hill, just outside of his apartment at 10th Avenue and Elm Street.
It’s here, four years ago, that Lamb, 26, was gunned down by an unknown man as his pregnant fiancee sat a few feet away in the passenger seat of his parked car. The two had been out celebrating the pregnancy.
The seemingly random act of violence, complicated further by an almost complete lack of physical evidence, has kept police and family members puzzled from the moment three shots – two of which struck Lamb – rang out on the night of Nov. 7, 2014.
And it’s here, in the quiet neighborhood of old homes and tall trees, that podcaster and filmmaker Lindy Boustedt begins her four-part series into Lamb’s murder. She calls it “A Senseless Death.”
“That’s what’s so scary about this case,” Boustedt said. “It was a completely random occurrence with a complete stranger and there’s so little to go on. I firmly believe that you don’t just murder someone and go back to your life the same.”
Boustedt, who’s from Spokane but lives in Seattle, has a personal link to the case. Her sister, Kelli Vance, was one of Lamb’s best friends and someone who now has regular contact with Lamb’s parents. The three will often hang out together at a local pizza parlor, reminiscing and sharing stories of the outgoing Lamb.
It was during one of these dinners that Boustedt broached the idea: a podcast, akin to the national phenomenon “Serial,” that dives deeper into Lamb’s murder than anything before it. Maybe it could jog something loose in the case. Or, even better, maybe it could reach the murderer or someone who knows him and inspire one or both of them to talk.
“My hope is that someone listening will think about someone in their life that kind of went through a major shift four years ago,” Boustedt said. “There might be people in his periphery that might know that something might be up.”
So she got to work. Starting in January of last year, the seasoned storyteller, who’s released multiple short films, made several trips to Spokane where she interviewed everyone from her sister and Lamb’s parents to police and experts on road rage.
While the series didn’t find the proverbial smoking gun or information not already known to police or family, it did shine a spotlight on potential evidence that could have helped investigators.
The leading theory on the case is that Lamb and his fiancee were followed home by a man in a dark-colored, boxy SUV with a roof rack that extended over the windshield after the two left Borracho Tacos and Tequileria on Division Street in downtown Spokane.
Once he was in the car, investigators believe, Lamb was involved in a road rage incident, since surveillance video at Borracho showed the 26-year-old didn’t get into any altercations while at the restaurant. While on the way home, the family believes, Lamb may have intentionally run a red light, either in an attempt to lose the vehicle following them or to get the suspect’s vehicle on a traffic camera.
Boustedt spends an entire episode on the possibility of red light camera footage, talking to experts on why such evidence might not have been used in the investigation. As it turns out, a provision to the 2005 traffic safety cameras law, sponsored by the ACLU, bars investigators from accessing photographic evidence from traffic cameras for anything other than prosecuting a traffic violation.
In defense of the law, the ACLU argued that the original intent of traffic cameras was to catch people breaking traffic laws – not to put surveillance videos on every intersection.
Former state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist tried twice to amend the law and allow law enforcement access for crime fighting, but each time House Bill 1047 was shot down.
Spokane police Sgt. Zac Storment, who was there investigating the night Lamb was killed and is overseeing the case, told Boustedt he couldn’t comment on the existence or nonexistence of red light camera footage, but said he hoped another attempt to change the law would be made.
“I’m not sure if that means they still have the footage from that night, though that’s technically not allowed, but there is precedent for it,” Boustedt says in the podcast. “Or, that they’re hoping it can help on future cases.”
Storment said recently that while the case is technically a cold case, it’s one that continues to weigh on him. In addition to the random nature of the crime, he said Lamb had no enemies, only friends.
“We like to say that about all victims, that they didn’t deserve it,” he said. “That was especially true about him.”
Storment said he was contacted in March to participate in the podcast, but, after talking with Boustedt a few times, hasn’t heard anything since. He is looking forward to listening to the series, though he said he had no idea at the time how popular podcasts were as a storytelling medium.
More than anything, he hoped the podcast would put a human face on the case and push anyone who knows anything to say something.
“This is a good guy that deserves their efforts,” he said. “It’s easy to not do anything, but this guy, I think, is worth it.”
If there’s anyone who knows just how good a person Lamb was, it’s his mother, Julie Knapp. Her son could walk into a room full of strangers and have 10 new friends, she sometimes says, and if needed, he would “literally give you the shirt off his back.”
In the months following Lamb’s murder, there was nothing but questions and fears for the tight-knit family. Lamb’s fiancee moved to the west side of the state out of concern that the killer would seek her out since she is the only witness, and to this day the family keeps the gender and identity of Lamb’s child a secret.
Knapp herself was scared to show her face on camera in the months and years following. To this day, she gets a pit in her stomach every time she gets behind a wheel.
“It’s nuts,” she said. “It makes you insane. You never know what the other person is thinking.”
Now, for the first time, she’s opening up about the case in a more public way. She is willingly showing her face for this and other stories, and she talked at length with Boustedt on the record, spending hours speaking into a microphone.
Most of the discussion revolved around her son and the lives he touched and the legacy he left. A loving, caring individual. A son. A fiance. A cook. A soon-to-be-father. All taken away in one night.
Her hope: Someone out there will feel compelled enough to say something. Perhaps even the killer.
“I really do think somebody knows something,” she said. “And hopefully, this will never happen to anybody else’s family.”