A Seattle man is accused of “coldly” murdering his roommate by tossing her down a flight of stairs after she demanded he move out of their shared home, police said.
Solomon David Whitt allegedly killed his roommate Jana Layman after the Seattle mother asked him to move out of their shared West Seattle home. The request was related to Layman's concerns that Whitt had “inappropriate contact” with her children, a 9-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, the Seattle Times reported. Whitt was booked on first-degree murder charges on Jan. 19, according to police records.
Prosecutors claimed Layman asked Whitt to refrain from showing physical affection to her two children. Whitt reportedly ignored her wishes and was then asked to move out by the 41-year-old mother.
“Although she asked Whitt to respect boundaries with her children, Whitt continued his behavior and in turn she decided to ask him to find a new place to live,” according to charging documents obtained by the Seattle Times.
The dispute led to a violent struggle that would claim Layman’s life, officials said. Whitt allegedly strangled Layman and then hurled her down a flight of stairs head first. He then scattered her belongings throughout the house and reportedly staged the crime scene to appear like Layman had fallen accidentally, the newspaper also said.
When Layman’s mother showed up at the home, he reportedly lied by telling the woman that her daughter had “just stepped out” but expected she’d be home soon. When Layman’s mother left, authorities allege the 25-year-old then grabbed a quick lunch at Trader Joe’s, came home, and called emergency dispatchers – telling police he found his roommate unresponsive at the bottom of the staircase.
However, police say they observed recently inflicted scratches on Whitt’s arm and noticed his neck was red. They also say they observed cuts on Layman’s neck, as well as bruising – which investigators suspected wasn’t consistent with Whitt's claim of an accidental fall. Layman was then transported to hospital where she died three days later. An autopsy later revealed the woman had been strangled to death, police said.
The pair had been living with each other since at least December 2018, authorities said. Whitt and Layman both worked for the Salvation Army, but had previously met when Whitt coached her children in basketball. Prosecutors said the Seattle man was always fixated on Layman’s children and thought of himself as a father figure in their lives.
“[I]t is clear that Whitt would have been quite upset by this request, as he was very invested in his relationship with Jana’s children,” the charging documents in the case also stated.
However, officials also suspect Whitt had grown jealous of Layman’s new boyfriend, who he believed was encroaching on his relationship with Layman’s kids, investigators said.
“Whitt was upset and angry about Jana’s new boyfriend possibly taking Whitt’s place in the children’s lives and that he would be pushed out,” according to police.
When Layman asked Whitt to halt his relationship with her children and vacate her home, prosecutors allege that he snapped.
“The defendant was so fearful and anxious at the proposition of moving out of the house and losing his perceived relationship with the victim’s children, that he killed the victim and coldly and calculatedly attempted to cover up the murder,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Berliner said according to The Seattle Times report. “The defendant lied with ease to the victim’s mother, 911 operator, medics and the Seattle Police Department about what had occurred in an attempt to avoid responsibility for this brutal murder.”
The most scathing piece of alleged evidence may have been Whitt’s diary, which detectives recovered. In it, police say Whitt chronicled his “clear disdain” for Layman, criticizing her as a parent and a poor mother – while in another section of his journal, authorities claim Whitt wrote that part of him wanted Layman to “burn in hell for all eternity."
“Each day it gets harder to live near to her sin and still tell her children to respect her,” he wrote, according to charging papers. “My thoughts turn violent when I think about how this could be solved rationally.”
The 25-year-old later confessed to the killing while being questioned by investigators, authorities said.
Layman was a painter, art teacher, a pottery instructor, and a nanny, according to her obituary. She was described as “full of joy, adventure, and fun-loving.”
“She was loving, accepting of everyone and a friend to all,” the obituary stated. “Her faith in God lifted her through many health problems and hardships; she genuinely valued her many friends and was committed to their lives.”
A memorial for the woman will be held on Feb. 1.
Whitt is being held on a $2 million bail, the Seattle Times reported. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 6.
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