Crime

Kent grandmother ‘would never go down without a fight.’ Suspected killer charged

Man in court for allegedly killing a 64-year-old woman, then burning her body

Lance Rougeau, 25, appears Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court. He's suspected of killing 64-year-old Linda Sweezer in her Kent home. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley found probable cause to hold him without bail until his arraignment Monday.
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Lance Rougeau, 25, appears Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court. He's suspected of killing 64-year-old Linda Sweezer in her Kent home. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley found probable cause to hold him without bail until his arraignment Monday.

Larry Sweezer has unanswered questions about how his former wife died.

But he’s sure of one thing.

“Linda would never go down without a fight,” he said Monday, following the arraignment of her suspected killer in Pierce County Superior Court.

Investigators have found no indication that Linda Sweezer, 64, knew Lance Gene Francoise Rougeau, the 25-year-old man charged with murder in her death.

“At this point we believe he was a burglary suspect and she was the homeowner,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Her body was found partly burned along a Pierce County road last week, and detectives found evidence of a struggle at Linda Sweezer’s Kent home, where they also found her 4-month-old granddaughter abandoned.

Rougeau has convictions for residential burglary, firearm theft, custodial assault and first-degree robbery, according to court records.

He pleaded not guilty at arraignment to first-degree murder and first-degree burglary in Sweezer’s death. Superior Court Commissioner Meagan Foley set bail at $1 million.

Surveillance video from where Sweezer’s body was found in the Lakeland Hills area showed two vehicles at the scene, but no one other than Rougeau has been arrested.

Charging papers give this account:

The two vehicles stopped about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 24, near 24th Street Court East and 169th Avenue. The video shows a flash of light that appears to be someone trying to burn the body, which a passerby found a couple hours later.

Sweezer’s clothes were burnt, and an autopsy found she’d been strangled, and that she had knife wounds to her neck, head and back.

Auburn police found her car, which had a great deal of blood in the trunk, a couple miles from the body.

A witness told investigators the person who left the car there told him it had run out of gas. Investigators looked at the witness’ phone after he said he let the driver use it. They found it had been used to call Rougeau’s brother.

They also found Rougeau’s DNA on the steering wheel, and a key to Sweezer’s car where he lived.

An ID in the car helped detectives identify Sweezer, and on Wednesday they went to her home in the 23200 block of 105th Avenue Southeast, where they found belongings in disarray and a knife with her blood on it.

In an upstairs bedroom, they found the abandoned baby. Sweezer had been in the process of getting custody of the child. She was treated for dehydration, and Child Protective Services found her a temporary home.

Larry Sweezer said Monday that decisions about the child’s future were still being made, but that, “The baby will have the best of care, and she will stay within the family.”

He said Sweezer is survived by the granddaughter, two children, and her mother and sister.

The two were married for 20 years, he said, and were in school together from elementary school through college.

“Through our ups and our downs, she was always my friend,” he said.

Her vigil was Saturday, according to The Kent Reporter.

Linda Sweezer was active with the nonprofit Kent Black Action Commission, and in the congregation of the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, her ex-husband said.

Asked to describe her, he said simply: “She was just a good woman.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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