On March 31, 1995, seven-year-old Roxanne Doll was abducted from her home in Everett, Washington. As her five-year-old sister slept soundly—barely a few feet away—Roxanne followed the intruder, lured by promises of a playful puppy.
A week later, news of Roxanne’s disappearance had spread like wildfire throughout the country. When two girls spotted a decomposing human foot at the edges of a nearby forest, the locals knew it could only belong to one person: Roxanne Doll.
Roxanne’s mom, Gail Doll, had been at the movie theater on the night of her daughter’s kidnapping. Her father, Tim Iffrig, had been downstairs, sleeping off a night of drinking with his buddies. Among those buddies was Richard Clark, a close family friend who—unbeknownst to everyone else—was also Roxanne's killer.
A loner who only socialized at drinking events, 26-year-old Clark had made always Gail feel uneasy—especially when he was around her kids. When Gail's youngest son told her Roxanne was missing on the morning of April 1, she immediately suspected Clark was responsible.
As Clark was a known drinker and drug user, the police shared Gail's suspicion, and they questioned him before Roxanne was even found. The interrogation confirmed their worst nightmare: Witnesses recalled seeing Clark's van outside the Doll-Iffrig home in the late hours of March 31st. Further investigation revealed that the car's interior not only smelled of death, but was covered in human blood. With the discovery of Roxanne's body just days later, Clark was slammed with charges of rape, first-degree murder, and kidnapping.
Richard Clark went to trial in 1997, where damning DNA evidence finally sealed his fate. Upon receiving a death sentence, Clark publicly assigned blame to Roxanne's parents, saying they were the “murderers.” A livid Tim Iffrig fled the courtroom “because of his violent feelings toward Clark,” clutching a knife he’d snuck past security (The Seattle Times).
Nine years later, Richard Clark changed his statement and took full responsibility for Roxanne’s death: “No one could have prevented me from doing what I did,” he told the court. “No one failed to protect Roxanne.” This admission, combined with the retraction of “biased” evidence presented during Clark's first trial, reduced his sentence to life in prison. He currently remains imprisoned in Washington.
Burl Barer’s true crime book Broken Doll covers the entire case, drawing from Barer’s interviews with members of the Doll-Iffrig family and those who’d been with Richard Clark on the night of the murder. The following excerpt details the chilling moment when nine-year-old Sheena Tobias and Siobian Kubesh found Roxanne’s body in the brush...
Read on for an excerpt of Broken Doll, and then download the book.
“We were looking for blackberries,” one little girl later told police. “We knew there were lots of blackberries down that trail because we had picked them before.”
“It was about seven o’clock when we decided to go play at the forest-kind-of-type thing,” said nine-year-old Sheena Tobias, referring to herself and playmate Siobian Kubesh. “First we went to Garfield Park and then we were going to go over to another friend’s, but Siobian didn’t want to go there, so we went down to that forest place. People dump all sorts of stuff there—leaves and things like that. Well, we were walking down and Siobian saw a skate—a roller skate or something. At least she thought she saw one, but we didn’t know if it was a skate or not. We walked down further and that’s when we saw it.”
“Sheena and I were walking side by side,” added “Siobian. “I thought I saw a skate. We went around to the other side of the bushes, but we couldn’t find the skate. On the way back up the trail, I saw this human’s foot. It was under some grass clippings,” she said. “It looked like a kid’s foot. I screamed, and there was other kids on the other side that we just came from and they heard me scream and they asked what was wrong and I told them that I saw a foot, and they came running over.
“Sheena was standing next to me,” the youngster recalled, “and I didn’t know what to do. I was just standing there. Sheena pulled me out of the bushes and said, ‘Get on your bike, we’re going home.’ We did go home, and we were in tears all the way. There was these people that saw and they called in to the police before us, because they could get home before us.”
Wesley Coulter stood atop his pickup truck, keeping an eye on his friend’s kids who were playing down the hill. He heard the screams and saw the two crying girls accompanied by his friend’s sons.
“A mechanic friend of mine lives near there,” said Coulter. “We were working on a transmission for a car of mine. I was asked to keep an eye on my friend’s children—his kids were down the hill looking for their bicycle helmets, I was standing in the back of my truck, because that was the only angle I could get to see where they were at. And I guess that’s how I saw what I saw,” Coulter said. “There was some kids playing on the hill that drops down toward where the train tracks are. I saw two girls come up the hill, and they sort of were coming toward me, and then I saw my friend’s two boys come up the hill toward me. And as the girls got closer, I saw that they were kind of hysterical, crying, and looked upset. And then my friend’s kids came to me and kind of looked—well, his oldest son sort of looked perplexed, not so much upset, but just confused. I asked them what was going on. He told me that they had seen a foot. I asked him if it were a real foot, and he gave me a weird look and told me that he certainly thought so.”
“On about every other telephone pole in all of Everett, there was a poster of Roxanne Doll on it, so I just had a feeling; so I grabbed my phone out of my truck and I went down to where they were playing at, and then my friend’s son, Kyle, showed me down the path to where, where this person was. I saw some little toes sticking up out of the grass. I looked at them, didn’t believe that they were real.”
Coulter grabbed a tree limb and prodded the foot to see if it was indeed real, or that of a doll. It was real. “I was filled with anger when I touched the toes and I knew for certain that Roxanne had died.”
Officer Anthony Britton was the first Everett police officer on the scene. “I didn’t approach the body a that time,” he said. “I saw a brushy, leafy area of sticks and debris, with a partial human foot sticking up out of the dirt. What I saw that day was five toes. I didn’t see any further down the foot than the ball of the foot. The foot appeared to be of a small young human, I would say seven or eight years old “ It was very white, not pinkish skin like we would see on a live person. It was what I would expect to see of a dead person’s limb,” reported Britton.
Sheena and Siobian returned to the site with their mothers and talked to the police. Awaiting them was a television news crew. The cameraman took pictures of the two young girls—pictures that were repeatedly broadcast on the Seattle-area television news.
“After their faces were on television,” said Mrs. Kubesh, “they were scared and worried that someone would come after them. For quite a while, they didn’t want to leave the house. My daughter was very afraid.”
While the youngsters gave statements to the police, Officer Britton did his duty with utmost efficiency. “My area of responsibility at that time was to make everything stop—preserve that scene and make sure nobody goes in there and make sure nothing is disturbed. I suspected whose body it was,” Officer Britton said. “The entire community was enthralled by this thing, and the way the dispatch had come out, and the fact that the sergeant of the major crime unit was going to be the second going in, indicated that there was something going on.”
“The site was not completely unfamiliar to Officer Britton. “It’s a hillside that takes you down to Burlington Northern property down there,” he said. “It’s completely wooded and, I guess, it’s an area where kids play in that neighborhood. They have paths and stuff that go down to the tracks and they had bridges and stuff that went across the ditches down below. It’s just a place to go and ride their bikes, I guess.”
Five minutes after Britton arrived, Sergeant Peter Grassi was on the scene. “I was advised of where the possible body was,” said Grassi, “so then I walked down to that area. There is a path that led over to the bank. Initially I went in by myself—they pointed out where it was and they kind of described where it was located, so I went in myself and looked.”
As a trained professional, Grassi took precautions not to contaminate the scene. “You try to take and walk down the area that you figure any suspect “might not walk down,” Grassi explained. “So with this path, there was a well-defined path there, so I walked off to the side of the path, along the edge, so there wouldn’t be any disturbing of any possible evidence that was on the path.
“What I did next,” said Grassi, “as I couldn’t get real close to it—it was down over a little embankment—I found a piece of an old branch that had been discarded there and took it and used it to prod the foot. And from doing that, then I could tell that it was a foot of a human. I carefully backed out of the area. I advised the other officers that were there at the scene that there would be no more entrance into the area and that we were going to start putting up barrier tape to seal off the crime scene. I had Officer Lineberry take some photographs of the general area, and Officer Britton put up the crime scene tape. We also called in the crime scene team members, and also requested assistance from Snohomish County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit, the Washington State Patrol, and search and rescue—we were going to use their helicopter to get some “initial overview scene photographs that night.”
"We were looking for blackberries..."
“As requested,” recalled Britton, “I took steps to secure the area. My first responsibility was to keep people out of the area,” he recalled. “I set flares a block out in all directions, and I blocked the intersections of Twenty-second, Twenty-third, and Twenty-fourth and Grand.”
Britton took out police tape and set an inner perimeter by tying it around street poles, cars, and any other physical item that served the purpose. “We wrapped it around telephone poles through street signs, whatever we had, over to the school bus stop and eventually we went way down. Our flares were burning out, so we needed to set something solid.
“Once those perimeters had been set,” Britton explained, “I took on the responsibility of opening a major scene log. That’s a log that everyone has to sign as they come into the crime scene so we know who’s been there, why they were there, when they came, and when they left. And it was my responsibility to sign everybody in and everyone out.
“Sergeant Grassi pretty much had his hands full,” Britton said. Sergeant Stillman came on the scene and Britton signed the log over to him. “I was then reassigned to the east side of the area. That’s down where I spoke about, with the Burlington property, as it goes down the hill, the tracks and all that are down there. I was assigned just to hold perimeter down there. Detectives had not set the perimeter through the woods yet, and I was assigned down there just to keep anybody out and just to protect that. That’s my area of responsibility. We set up lights down there so that the hillside was lit up so we could see. And I believe, I was probably there about two hours—until about ten or so when Officer Atwood came and relieved me of that duty and I went back on patrol.”
After all the detectives and different agencies arrived, Sergeant Peter Grassi held a briefing. “At that point, everybody was given what assignments they were going to have to do at the crime scene,” he recalled. “I was involved in that. On our crime scene response team, I usually call in a team leader. That person is responsible for the actual hands-on work of the crime scene people and I’m there to facilitate. At that point, it was essentially Detective Woodburn who took over.”
“The body, true to professional crime investigation protocol, was not removed. All professional law enforcement personnel know that you don’t move the body until absolutely necessary. “You only get one chance to study the victim’s body in the context of the crime scene,” explained Detective Herndon, “and once the body is moved, that opportunity is lost forever. You secure the scene, you guard the scene, and you process the entire crime scene, including the body, in the clear light of day.”
Key to the investigation of a violent sex crime is the science and art of profiling both the crime scene and the offender from the physical and psychological evidence. The methodology is based on Locard’s Principle of Exchange; anyone who enters the scene both takes something of the scene with them and leaves something of them behind. This means that what you recover from a crime scene gives you an impression of the individual who committed the crime.
According to forensic pathologist Brent Turvey, profiling the crime scene may give investigators a more narrowed pool of suspects, insight into motive, and linkages of a given crime to other similar crimes. “The opportunity to profile an unsolved crime,” insisted Turvey, “is not to be ignored or wasted.”
“The chances of destroying or disturbing any type of evidence must be avoided,” said Grassi. “We decided to wait until the light of the next morning before processing the crime scene.”
Gail Doll and Tim Iffrig knew about the gruesome discovery on East Grand prior to official notification by Everett police. “Somebody from the Seattle Times called to ask me if I knew why Officer Woodburn had left his dinner table to go to East Grand. After that, Detective Herndon came out and informed me that they had found a foot and that they didn’t know if it were Roxanne or not, but there were no other children missing in that area at that time.”
“Yes, that is exactly correct,” confirmed Herndon. “The fact that we had no other small children missing, myself and a police chaplain went to the victim’s residence and advised the family that we believed we had found their daughter, but it wasn’t positive.”
The further processing of the crime scene began in earnest the morning of April 9. Sergeant Grassi arrived at 4:00 A.M. “Going back that early, what I did was start setting up, getting equipment ready. The detectives were not due back until about six A.M.”
Present on-site the morning of the ninth was Dr. Eric Kiesel, the pathologist who would perform the autopsy on Roxanne Doll. “The feet were visible. It was still difficult to see the body because it was covered with dirt and vegetation, but parts of the body were exposed.”
Dr. Kiesel didn’t notice much blood, either on or around the body. “Regarding the lack of blood, well, the body was covered with vegetable matter and dirt, so I really wasn’t seeing much blood at all, and I didn’t examine the surrounding foliage or whatever was underneath or near her to determine if there was any blood present. The process of packaging the body, especially in a scene like this, is to package the body in a way not to disturb what’s beneath her too much; this is why we rolled her and placed the evidence sheet as we did, and rolled her and lifted her.”
When the body was carefully examined on-site, an identification bracelet was clearly visible on the body’s wrist. The name on the bracelet was Roxanne Doll.
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