SWAT team finds suspect's body after blowing roof off Ridge bunker
April 28, 2012 · 12:09 PM
King County Sheriff’s SWAT team found what appears to be murder suspect Peter Keller's body, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, after breaching a Rattlesnake Ridge bunker Saturday morning.
At around 10 a.m., the sheriff's TAC 30 team used an explosive to breach the roof of the heavily fortified hideout, which allowed enough access for the deputies to make their way inside. In the bunker, deputies discovered a body, which they said appeared to be Keller.
The Sheriff’s Office will use their bomb disposal unit to clear the bunker, to ensure there are no explosive or booby traps. Once the bunker has been cleared, detectives will enter it to begin a crime scene investigation. The King County Medical Examiner will determine the official cause of death and positively identify the body.
The King County Sheriff’s Office Friday located the bunker that homicide suspect Keller is believed to be hiding in, located in the hillside near the Rattlesnake Ridge trailhead above Snoqualmie.
In a press conference, King County Sheriff Steve Strachan related how teams carefully made their way into position around the well-hidden lair in an early morning operation Friday.
For officers seeking an alleged killer, the fortified bunker is difficult to approach—"almost impossible to do in a safe way," the sheriff said.
"We want to make sure, with this violent person inside, the way he's prepared, that our deputies are safe," Strachan added. "It may be some time."
Police set up an inner and outer perimeter around the bunker, "so he can't get out and nobody can get in," the sheriff said.
County and Seattle Police SWAT teams began a systematic search of the area about 5 a.m. Friday. The bunker was built in a steep, heavily wooded area a few hundred yards from the trailhead.
"It's off the beaten path," Strachan said. "It's not very near the trail, but… this is certainly not backcountry."
Sheriff’s Detectives found clues to the whereabouts of the bunker after processing the crime scene at the house where two women, Keller's daughter and wife, were murdered. Detectives also received tips from citizens who had seen Keller’s truck at the Rattlesnake Ridge Trailhead over the past year.
Based on the photos detectives discovered of the bunker at the crime scene, Keller is believed to have been building it since 2004. The bunker appears to be fortified by logs and dirt, and was very well hidden. It goes back at least 20 feet into the hillside.
Deputies had sealed off the terminus of North Bend Way Friday morning, and had also asked media to stay quiet about the operation, but passersby who noticed the convergence of television camera trucks quickly guessed that Keller had been found.
Strachan praised the detective work that led to the discovery of the bunker, including sophisticated use of the found photographs and a manhunt on Rattlesnake Ridge. Trackers hiked power lines, visible in one of Keller's shots from the bunker, and found signs of someone, heavily-laden, hiking to the site.
When SWAT teams went looking for the bunker Friday morning, they could smell wood smoke from the stove inside before they could see it.
"The plan was that this evidence would have been destroyed by the fire" that Keller is alleged to have started at his home, Strachan said.
"The neighbors called too quickly, and the fire department came too quickly. That was critical to what led us here today," he added. "We asked for tips from the public, and they came through."
Strachan wouldn't speculate on the reasons behind the tragedy, but had hoped it would have ended without more violence.
"To try to apply some sort of rational reason is futile," he said.
"It's an extraordinary case," Strachan added. "His behavior is irrational, combined with a level of preparation and intelligence. It's a very unusual case."
The view from Keller's bunker, under construction in this 2004 photo.
Victims Lynnettee Keller, 41, and daughter, Kaylene, 18, were killed on Sunday, April 22, March
Peter A. Keller, 41, is the suspect in the deaths of two North Bend women.