2 women found inside burning Wash. home had been shot, authorities say

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 12:37 PM

Jennifer Sullivan

SEATTLE -- Two women who were found Sunday inside a burning house in North Bend, Wash., had been shot to death, the King County Sheriff's Office said Monday afternoon.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West declined to name the women, but a source close to the investigation identified them as a 41-year-old woman and her 19-year-old daughter. A pet cat and dog were also found shot to death inside the home, said Sheriff Steve Strachan.

Strachan said the case is being investigated as a double homicide. The women were shot at close range, he said.

Peter Keller, husband of the older woman and father of the younger woman, has been identified as a person of interest in the women's deaths. On Monday, the Sheriff's Office released a photo of the 41-year-old man and issued a warning to hikers to be on the lookout for him.

"Keller was an avid hiker and would go off by himself six to eight hours every weekend. He was an avid outdoors person," Strachan said.

Sheriff's search-and-rescue crews will be checking local trails for Keller and posting fliers advising hikers he may be on a trail."We certainly want to know where he is and what involvement he has," Strachan said. "We don't want to alarm people, but people should know that he's a person of interest in a double homicide."

Keller has no criminal history and the Sheriff's Office has no record of domestic violence in the home, West said.

Keller has not been seen since the bodies were discovered. His Toyota Corolla was found abandoned near the North Bend Library on Sunday several hours after the fire. Several weapons are missing from the family home, Strachan added.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m. Sunday, neighbors reported seeing smoke coming from a house in the 47200 block of Southeast 159th Street near Twin Falls State Park, Eastside Fire and Rescue Chief Lee Soptich said. The kitchen was engulfed in flames, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Firefighters had a tough time getting inside the house because the front door was blocked by a couch and other furniture. Investigators initially believed the door had been deliberately barricaded.

However, friends of the two victims have since explained that the furniture was always organized that way. The occupants used a side door to enter and exit the house, West said.

"Friends of the people living in the home say there was a couch and a chair always blocking the door. It does not change the fact that the deaths are suspicious," West said.

Firefighters found several gas cans scattered throughout the house with varying amounts of gasoline inside them, Soptich said. West, the sheriff's spokeswoman, later said seven gas cans had been found.

West said firefighters quickly knocked down the front door and moved the furniture to get to the women, who were taken from the single-story prefabricated house shortly before 9 a.m. After efforts to resuscitate them, they were pronounced dead at the scene.

The fire was declared under control at 9:24 a.m.

Cate Reynolds walked to the scene Sunday afternoon with her daughter and other friends, who said they were best friends with the young woman who lived in the house and had recently graduated from high school with her.

"They wanted to just come and be close and process some stuff," Reynolds said.

Investigators returned to the house Monday to search for clues as to what happened.


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