The King County Sheriff’s Office has advised hikers in east King County to be cautious following a double homicide in North Bend last weekend, because the man believed responsible may be hiding in the mountains.
Sheriff Steve Strachan told this column via telephone earlier today that hikers and other recreationists should “do what they need to do to stay safe.” That includes carrying a firearm if one feels comfortable doing so, but overall, he said people hiking in nearby forests should not be fearful, just alert.
Strachan said hikers, campers and bicyclists need not alter their plans for fear of an encounter with Keller, but they should be aware. Anyone who recalls seeing the pickup should call 206-296-3311 or 911.
“Carry a cellphone,” said Strachan, who advised hikers not to confront Keller.—Seattle Times
Murder charges have been filed against Peter Keller, who is believed to have shot his wife and daughter in the head at close range last Sunday before trying to burn his home east of North Bend. The crime is particularly odd because the family pets had also been shot. Seven gas cans had been positioned around the house.
Keller, 41, is considered something of an outdoorsman who had habitually spent hours roaming the local forests. Yet, according to sources with the sheriff’s department, he normally came home at night. He had no criminal record, and there was no history of domestic violence.
Several firearms are apparently missing from the home, which is near Twin Falls State Park, a couple of miles east of the city.
“We want you to be aware that this guy may be out there,” Strachan said.
Keller may have constructed some kind of hideout in the forest of east King County, in the Snoqualmie River drainage. He had apparently been making trips into the wilds – nobody seems to know where, exactly – often times carrying a loaded backpack, and returning with the pack empty. The sheriff’s department has asked anyone who may have seen Keller’s red Toyota pickup parked at trailheads in the area to contact them at (206) 296-3311 or dial 911.
Keller, who worked in Preston, had taken Monday, Thursday and Friday off last week.
When another co-worker asked him when he was going to return to work, Keller allegedly responded “that he may not come back next week, the week after that or maybe never,” charging papers say.—Seattle Times
The suspect is described as 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 175 pounds and he has a receding hairline.
Trails are beginning to open up at lower elevations in the North Bend-Snoqualmie Ranger District, although the more popular routes going into the Alpine Lakes are still buried in snow.
Members of the popular Northwest Hikers forum have been discussing the crime for several days. The advisory may remind some people of the Pinnacle Lake slayings nearly six years ago in Snohomish County. That unsolved double-murder also took the lives of a mother and daughter, Mary Cooper and Susanna Stodden, also shot in the head and left alongside the trail.
Strachan’s advice about confronting Keller may be moot if he decides to initiate a confrontation. Even Seattle Times readers wondered about the sheriff’s remark about not being fearful.
Interesting… This guy is suspected of killing his family and hikers, campers and cyclists need not be concerned? That seems a bit optimistic to me. If someone were to encounter him, he won’t want those folks to go telling anyone where he is.
Curious approach for LE – almost as if they want more unprepared people out in the woods with the hopes that someone will come across him?—‘jj-f’ North Bend, Seattle Times
Under state statute, people engaged in legitimate outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, may carry a concealed handgun without a concealed pistol license. Open carry is also legal, and is not an uncommon sight in the back country. This is explained in my book Washington State Gun Rights and Responsibilities on Pages 17 and 21 of the latest edition, which is now off the press and available at various gun shops and the monthly Puyallup gun show.
Some Times readers are offering one another advice on how to stay safe while the manhunt continues.
For the time being, it’d probably be wise to hike in groups of three or more, with at least one member carrying a pistol. If you lack a concealed carry permit, it is perfectly legal to carry it openly on your hip with no license at all, as long as you can legally own the firearm. Given the circumstances, I would expect few hassles explaining the gun to any law enforcement you encounter.
Remember the fugitive who fled into Mt. Rainier NP this past winter and killed a ranger? Don’t let that happen to you.—‘Witty Comments Verboten’ University District, Seattle Times
This morning, Strachan acknowledged that in many areas of the back country, there is no cell phone service.
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