Two women found dead inside a Tacoma house after an arson fire were decapitated by a friend who claimed he became “possessed” while the group did drugs, according to court records.
Pierce County prosecutors Wednesday charged Matthew Leupold, 32, with two counts of first-degree aggravated murder and first-degree arson in the deaths of Mary Buras, 22, and Theresa Greenhalgh, 31.
He was held without bail.
His sister, Lindsey Leupold, 36, was charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance. Her bail was set at $500,000.
Matthew Leupold’s 15-year-old nephew faces the same charge, as well as first-degree arson.
Prosecutors allege Lindsey Leupold and her teenage son were present last week when the women were killed and helped clean up the scene the next day.
Buras and Greenhalgh’s remains were found about 2:45 a.m. Friday after Tacoma firefighters responded to a blaze in the 3700 block of South Yakima Avenue.
One woman was found in the bathtub. The other was at the top of the stairs.
The Medical Examiner’s Office said defensive wounds on at least one of the women’s hands lead forensic investigators to believe she was alive when she was decapitated.
The victims periodically stayed in the small, two-story house at the owner’s request while the downstairs was being remodeled.
The fire, which was started with kerosene, was confined to an upstairs bathroom where one victim’s remains were found.
The three suspects were arrested late Monday.
After Wednesday’s hearing, Warren Clements, Greenhalgh’s stepfather since her childhood, expressed shock and anger at her death.
“I just hope the justice system takes care of this despicable thing,” he said. “I don’t know 100 percent of the details, but we know the how. We just don’t know the why.”
Greenhalgh leaves behind three children, ages 5 months to 9 years. About half of the court gallery was filled with her family and friends Wednesday.
“We love her and it was just wrong,” said Greenhalgh’s sister, Jasmine Machen. “She should not have been taken from us so soon.”
Charging papers gave this account of the killlings:
Matthew Leupold told detectives the group was doing drugs in an upstairs bedroom.
“Matthew said that at one point he became possessed and throughout a period of time he was hearing voices in his head,” the records state. “He said the voices told him to ‘kill’ her.”
He allegedly assaulted Greenhalgh with his fists and a framing hammer before attacking Buras, who was crying on the bed.
At one point, Lindsey Leupold told police, she jumped on Greenhalgh “to try to protect her but was struck by Matthew in the arms and back of the head.”
The teenager said Matthew Leupold urged him to strike the women with a speaker, but he refused.
Lindsey Leupold and the teen then left the room and consoled each other in another bedroom.
Matthew Leupold used a utility knife, pocket knife and hatchet to decapitate the bodies in the bathtub over the next hour.
He and his sister returned to the home the next day to try to clean up. The teen allegedly confessed to helping hide evidence and start the fire.
The boy later led investigators to a backpack containing one of the victims’ heads.
“Because of the nature of the crime, this is a potential death penalty case,” read a news release from the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office.
Matthew Leupold has seven prior felonies, including one for arson. He recently was released from jail after serving time for two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Contributing writer Genny Boots and staff writer Kenny Ocker contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653