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Sister of victim on double-killing that remains unsolved: ‘It’s been turmoil’

Updated March 2, 2024 - 9:32 am

Shirl Huey panics when the phone rings.

It’s been a year since the murders, and for Huey, not knowing who killed her sister, Shella Huey, has been like torture.

Shirl Huey doesn’t know if the caller will tell her the news that she’s been waiting to hear since last February.

The anticipation sends her into a spiral of anxiety.

“It’s been turmoil,” she said.

On Feb. 20, 2023, Shella Huey, 46, and her longtime boyfriend, Vincent Spoto, 65, were found dead in the makeshift encampment where they were living behind an AutoZone store at Nellis Boulevard and East Desert Inn Road in east Las Vegas.

Both had been shot. She had been shot in the head and neck, Spoto in the head, according to the Clark County coroner’s office.

“He was just very outgoing,” Shirl Huey said of Spoto. “Nice. Good guy.”

And now, as the one-year anniversary of the killings comes and goes, an arrest still hasn’t been made.

“I thought it was going be a good day, but I just cried all day,” she said of the one-year anniversary in a phone interview from her home in Phoenix.

In a January interview, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson, who oversees the department’s Homicide Section, said the case stands out in his mind as one from last year that he wants to solve.

“If I could pick one case right now that’s kind of like in my memory of, maybe if I solve one, it’s that one from 2023,” he said.

Shirl Huey also traveled from Phoenix to plead for information in a May 2023 news conference at Metro headquarters.

“I’m here speaking on behalf of my sister because that’s what she would want me to do,” Shirl Huey said. “She was my soul sister, she was my everything.”

In an interview Wednesday, Detective Chadwick Vensand of Metro’s Homicide Section, who has been investigating the killings with his partner, Detective Aaron Jenkins, from the beginning, said that “unfortunately, there’s not a huge update on the case” but that he and Jenkins are still “doing everything we can.

“We’re working the case as best as we can,” Vensand said. “We’re trying every investigative technique that we can come up with to bring some closure to this case, but as far as something new, there’s not a whole lot.”

Vensand said Huey and Spoto were discovered by some “unhoused individuals” who found the couple dead in their makeshift shelter. When Metro patrol officers arrived, it was clear they were dead.

“No suspects identified at this time,” Vensand said.

He said it isn’t known why the couple were killed. Police have heard a couple of theories but nothing investigators have been able to substantiate or corroborate. Vensand declined to elaborate on those theories.

“Right now, we’re not sure exactly why they were killed,” said Vensand, who as of Wednesday said he has investigated 121 deaths since joining the Homicide Section in October 2021.

‘There’s someone out there who has information’

Vensand said police believe there is somebody, or more than one person, who has information that could really change the investigation. He urged anyone with even the slightest bit of information to come forward.

“We know that there’s someone out there who has information, and we’re asking them to please come forward so that we can get some justice for Vincent and Shella,” Vensand said.

“It’s time to take responsibility. Come forward,” he said, addressing the killer or killers. “Let’s have a candid conversation about what’s occurred.”

In the May 2023 press conference, Johansson said investigators believe Huey and Spoto were killed several days before their bodies were found by police.

Vensand said Wednesday police still didn’t know the exact date of their deaths, but police still believe Shella Huey and Spoto were possibly killed late on Feb. 17, 2023, or early on the next morning.

They were both lying down. It appears they were killed when they were asleep.

Shirl Huey has said she at least finds some solace in the fact her sister and Spoto died together. She said February was rough. Her sister’s first heavenly birthday was Feb 11 .

She recalled her sister’s laugh, her sense of humor, how the two siblings were “rebels” who were “stuck at each other’s hips” while growing up.

She also spoke of how her husband, Rickey Richey, 59, has doubled as her therapist as she has navigated a journey of grief that has taken her through anger, depression and the agony of not knowing what happened.

‘We’re looking. We’re not giving up’

She said she contacts police investigators regularly. She is “confident they’re doing what they need to do” and feels they are “on top of their game.”

“If somebody thinks they got away with murder, they didn’t, man,” Shirl Huey said.

“We’re looking. We’re not gonna give up,” Richey said, echoing his wife’s need to see the case get solved.

Vensand said he hears from relatives of Huey on an almost daily basis. He also hears from Spoto’s family members.

“Obviously, it’s something extremely traumatic and tragic for her,” Vensand said about Shirl Huey. “And it’s something that we as detectives take personally as well, each and every one of these cases.

“So, you do your best to update them. You do your best to keep them encouraged on the investigation, but a lot of the conversation that I have with her is unfortunately similar to what we’ve talked about — you have to be brutally truthful with them, that there’s no new updates at this time,” Vensand said.

For Shirl Huey, there is anguish but also a resolve to see her sister’s killer caught.

“Right now in my grief stage, I have to say I’m determined,” Shirl Huey said. “I will find out who murdered my sister.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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