The wife of a 40-year-old Spanaway house painter called authorities in January to report her husband might be a danger to himself.
It turned out he might have been a danger not to himself, but to those closest to him.
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies said the man shot his wife to death as she slept Tuesday morning and later killed their 11-year-old daughter as he drove her around in the family car.
Deputies found mother and daughter dead Wednesday in the family’s home. Both were in a bed in the master bedroom.
They booked the father into the Pierce County Jail for investigation of two counts of first-degree murder. He is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday. The News Tribune is not publishing his name because he has not yet been charged with a crime.
Autopsies are scheduled for the victims Thursday. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office said it would not release the victims’ names until the autopsies were completed.
The man told detectives he killed his wife and daughter because of marital and financial troubles, Capt. Ed Smith said Wednesday.
He apparently had been hiding financial difficulties from his wife, including lying to her about a new house they were supposed to be moving into, investigators said.
The man owns a painting company, and it appeared his business was failing.
Two people sued his company in Pierce County Superior Court this year, alleging he took deposits and other money to paint their houses but never finished the jobs, records show. One plaintiff claimed the man’s company owed him nearly $35,000 in damages and refunds.
A third person filed a small claim against him in District Court this month.
“Painter took $1,000 deposit for paint, caulking, materials and never came back to finish the paint job after many calls,” the woman wrote in her claim, which was filed Aug. 1.
The man showed up at the jail about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday to say he’d killed his wife and daughter, Smith said. He told detectives he killed his wife in their bed, then woke his daughter and another girl who’d been spending the night, deputies said.
It did not appear the girls knew the wife had been shot, Smith said.
“The suspect took both of the children in his car, dropped off the friend at her residence in Auburn then drove around for some time with his daughter in the car,” deputies said in a news release. “The suspect told detectives that he pulled over on the side of the road in Spanaway and shot his daughter as she sat inside the vehicle.”
Deputies said the man then stopped at a fast-food restaurant, bought himself something to eat and drove home, where he put his daughter’s body into bed with her mother’s.
They are still trying to determine where he was when he shot his daughter, Smith said.
“After several hours of attempting to clean the residence and his vehicle, the suspect decided to turn himself in to law enforcement,” the news release states.
Deputies were dispatched to the family’s home in the 15500 block of 20th Avenue Court East and looked through the master bedroom window. After seeing a woman lying in bed, they forced their way into the home and discovered the second body.
Deputies who interviewed the man in January did not find reason for concern, Smith said.
Neighbors described the man as friendly and quiet and said they were shocked to wake and discover police tape blocking the cul-de-sac.
“This whole neighborhood is quiet,” said Sandee Fearn, who lives a few houses down from where the incident happened. “It’s really disturbing.”
Friends of the family held a candlelight vigil in the neighborhood Wednesday night.
She always has a smile, just very friendly and very supportive of the school, friend Lindy Heindel said of the woman. "She will be missed."
Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.