Confirmed: Body of suspected ranger killer found

Staff writerJanuary 2, 2012 

Searchers have found the body of the man suspected of killing a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, park and law enforcement officials confirmed this afternoon.

Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran and former Fort Lewis soldier, is suspected of shooting park ranger Margaret Anderson, a 34-year-old Eatonville resident, Sunday morning during a routine safety stop near Paradise on the mountain’s south side.

Searchers found his body in Paradise Creek above Narada Falls. He was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and one shoe. Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer said officials believe Barnes died of exposure.

The Pierce County medical examiner was on the scene inspecting the body. Two firearms were located near the body.

Barnes was stationed at Fort Lewis and served in the Iraq war, according to Maj. Chris Ophardt, an Army spokesman. Barnes worked in communications and didn’t have special outdoor survival experience, according to FBI special agent Steven Dean.

Barnes was released from the Army in November 2009 after two years and seven months on active duty, Ophardt said. He received a "general, under honorable" discharge status, which lies between honorable and dishonorable, after charges of driving under the influence and improperly transporting privately owned weapons.

The King County Sheriff’s Office said Barnes also was being sought after in connection with a shooting at a house party in Skyway near Renton early Sunday when a man and woman were critically injured and two men were wounded.

Anderson was killed Sunday morning while approaching a motorist who did not stop at a safety checkpoint. Rangers were checking vehicles to make sure they had chains for traveling safely in winter conditions.

“The shooter pulled up, did a U-turn, jumped out of his car and fired on the two ranger vehicles,” said park spokesman Kevin Bacher.

“Ranger (Dan) Camiccia’s vehicle was shot at through the front windshield and I understand that Margaret’s vehicle was shot at through the door,” Bacher said.

Camiccia was uninjured and reportedly put his car in reverse and backed away.

Attempts to reach Anderson were unsuccessful for the next 90 minutes because “anybody who attempted to was fired upon,” Bacher said.

Once the shooter fled into the forest, Camiccia, ranger Kraig Snure and Pierce County law enforcement officers were able to reach the scene of the shooting.

The park was closed and about 200 local and federal agents were brought in to search the woods for the shooter. The used airplanes, helicopters, infrared technology and snowshoes during the search.

Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise was locked down and the National Park Inn at Longmire were locked down until the visitors could be escorted out of the park.

Late Monday morning a body was found near Narada Falls by members of the Pierce County sheriff's SWAT team, who had been following Barnes' footprints in the snow. The searchers found the body about 300 feet from where the tracks ended at the edge of the creek.

Barnes was involved in a custody dispute in July 2011. The mother of his child sought a temporary restraining order.

Anderson was a 34-year-old mother of two daughters, ages 3 and 1. She lived in Eatonville with her husband, Eric Anderson. Her father, Paul Kritsch, is a minister at Lutheran Church in Scotch Plains, N.J.

In an interview with the Seattle Times he said that Anderson and her husband were living their dream working as park rangers. The couple met while working as rangers at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park.

"They had been looking for that for a long time, to be in the same park," Kritsch said.

Mount Rainier National Park superintendent Randy King said Anderson will be missed.

“She was a wonderful person, a very pleasant person and an excellent ranger,” King said. “She had a great attitude and was willing to help. It’s a tragic loss.”

Margaret Anderson led rangers who patrolled the mountain’s Snow Play areas. She served as liaison between the park and area first-responders. Pierce County Fire District 23 Chief Garry Olson said Anderson was a hard worker.

The fire district, based in Elbe, works frequently with the park. “She was a professional,” Olson said. Anderson’s Eatonville neighbor, Adam Norton, said the Anderson family moved to the neighborhood near the heart of the town a year or so ago.

He said the couple often worked different shifts at the park. Margaret Anderson and another neighbor often went walking in the mornings, he said. “From what I could tell, her whole life was about her girls,” Norton said.

The park remains closed.   Staff writers Jeffrey P. Mayor, Adam Ashton, Stacia Glenn, Debbie Cafazzo and Kate McEntee contributed to this report.

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