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Cops reveal motive in chopping death of senator's nephew

SPOKANE, Wash. -- A 22-year-old man has been arrested in the slaying of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s nephew after telling a friend in a recorded phone call that he did it because the nephew had abused a 17-year-old girl, authorities said Thursday.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said investigators arrested 22-year-old John A. Radavich on Thursday evening at an apartment in Spokane Valley for investigation of first-degree murder. It was not immediately clear if Radavich had an attorney or someone who could speak on his behalf.

Robert Tester, the 35-year-old nephew of the Democratic senator from Montana, was found dead on Sept. 6, after his 8-year-old daughter reported witnessing part of the homicide. The girl had been sleeping in bed with her father when he was attacked, investigators said.

The girl called a family member, who then called 911, reports CBS affiliate KREM. The girl wasn’t able to identify the assailant, who she said was wearing all black with most of his face covered, the station reports. The girl told deputies the man had a sword and a knife, the station reports. She said the man told her to stay in bed because he was going to kill her dad.

An ax was found at the scene, authorities have said. The medical examiner said Tester died from “chop wounds” to the head and his stomach area and chest, KREM reports.

“Detectives learned Tester had a 17-year-old girlfriend who he assaulted the day before the murder,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a news release. “During the last week of 2016, detectives received information from a friend of Radavich. The friend stated Radavich confessed to killing Tester during a phone call he had recorded and provided a copy of the call to detectives.”

Radavich had previously dated the girl, who contacted him after Tester abused her on Sept. 5, the sheriff’s office said. In the recorded call, Radavich told his friend he had to take care of it by killing Tester, the news release said.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately release more details of the alleged abuse, but said the case remains an active investigation.

In the wake of the arrest, Sen. Jon Tester released thsi statement to MTN news: “Sharla and I and the entire Tester family would like to thank the public for their continued thoughts, prayers and respect for our privacy during this difficult time.”