Suspect accused of killing and burning man in treehouse also sought help getting injured witness across river

The difficult to reach crime scene is near the Carbon River.
The difficult to reach crime scene is near the Carbon River. Pierce County Sheriff’s Office

A dispute over stolen property may have led to the death of a man, a woman being shot and a treehouse near Orting set ablaze in the night.

A suspect is in custody, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said.

The difficult to reach crime scene is near the Carbon River.

Authorities were first alerted to the crimes at about 3:30 a.m. Monday by a 911 call, Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Arriving deputies found a woman at a house on Pioneer Way East. She had a gunshot wound to her foot.

The woman, deputies learned, had been transported to the residence from the scene of the shooting — a treehouse located across the Carbon River.

“The woman told the deputies that she and another male victim had been shot by a male acquaintance armed with a rifle during a confrontation in a treehouse,” Troyer said.

The woman was transported to a hospital after providing a description of the suspect.

A man who had made the 911 call told the deputy that he had been woken up by the suspect banging on his door at about 3 a.m. Monday. The suspect asked the resident for help in getting the woman across the river.

“The witness and the suspect reportedly crossed the river in inflatable boats, to where the female victim was located on the other shore,” Troyer said.

The treehouse is located in a wooded area approximately 3/4 of a mile up a trail from the river bank. She had allegedly been brought to the river bank by the suspect in a wheelbarrow.

“The witness said that he loaded the female victim into one of the inflatable boats, ferried her back across the river, carried her into his house and called 911,” Troyer said.

The suspect was last seen by the witness on the river bank.

The treehouse is known to the Sheriff’s Foothills Division and Search and Rescue team members, Troyer said. It’s used by transients and several have needed rescuing when they have attempted to cross the river to reach it.

Deputies, detectives, forensics, the Swiftwater Rescue Team, and the SWAT team all responded to the area Monday, Troyer said.

“All responding department members had to be rafted across the river by Swiftwater and then hike into to the remote scene once it was secured by SWAT,” Troyer said.

SWAT members found a wheelbarrow with a pistol inside of it around 7 a.m. A few minutes later they located the treehouse. It had been set on fire.

“In the burned remains of the treehouse they located a man’s body that had also been set on fire, and a rifle,” Troyer said.

At about 8 a.m. a deputy spotted a man in hip waders walking south on the river bank with a dog. SWAT members and a K9 unit followed the suspect’s path up a hill and found him hiding behind a tree.

“The suspect was cooperative and slid down the hill along with his dog, and was taken into custody without incident,” Troyer said.

He has been booked into the Pierce County Jail on charges of murder in the first degree, assault in the first degree, and arson.

The dog was dropped off with a family member.

Detectives and forensics processed the scene and interviewed witnesses.

“Detectives believe the shooting may have occurred during a dispute between the suspect and the male victim over missing/stolen property,” Troyer said.

The male victim has not been identified.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor