Body Found in Bunker Believed to Be That of Murder Suspect
Officers blasted a whole in the roof after pumping tear gas into the complex near North Bend in Washington state had failed to persuade Peter Keller to surrender.
They feared the armed fugitive may have a gas mask and that the bunker, which had multiple levels and entrances, might be booby-trapped.
Police spokeswoman Katie Larson said that the body found inside "would appear to be our suspect"."It appears he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound."
She said it would take officers several days to complete their search of the bunker.
The manhunt for the 41-year-old began after the bodies of his wife and 18-year-old daughter were discovered at their family home last Sunday.
Both had been shot in the head and their house had been set on fire.
Photographs found in Keller's home after the killings gave authorities an idea of the location of the fortified bunker, which had been built over eight years.
When combined with reports from hikers who remembered seeing his red pickup truck, experienced trackers were able to find off-trail boot prints that confirmed Keller was in an area known as Rattlesnake Ridge.
However, it still took police commandoes seven hours on Friday morning to find the site.The King's County Sheriffsaid Keller was a self-taught survivalist who was known to stockpile supplies.
Authorities added that Keller took over $6,000 out of his bank account before the deaths of his wife, Lynnettee, and daughter, Kaylene, and was said to be preparing for the "end of the world."
One of Keller's work colleagues said he owned body armour, and the man gave police a list of weapons that he knew the suspect owned, including several handguns and high-powered rifles with scopes and silencers.
A Sheriff’s SWAT team blew a hole in the roof of the hideout with explosives and saw what they believe to be the body of Peter Keller. It appeared he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the sheriff’s office said.
“They believe the person has been dead for some time. There’s a great deal of blood and a pistol nearby,” Sheriff Steven D. Strachan said.
A bomb disposal unit was clearing the bunker, looking for explosives or booby traps, officials said.
Deputies earlier said they had Keller, 41, contained inside the bunker.
Authorities fired tear gas late Friday into the bunker, set into the Cascade foothills about 25 miles east of Seattle. It was unclear whether the gas went deep enough to have any effect.
Keller had not been seen since Sunday following a fire at his home, where the bodies of his wife and teenage daughter were discovered.
His standoff with authorities began Friday after investigators found evidence that led them to the bunker near Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, according to the sheriff’s office.
Authorities didn’t immediately send deputies in because of safety concerns.
Investigators do not have a clear motive for the slayings, according to Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff’s Office
Keller, who did not have a criminal record, was described as a survivalist by some relatives, West said.
“We gathered he had a doomsday attitude … family and friends have indicated he thought the world was going to end at some point,” West said.
Keller likely had plenty of arms and supplies in the bunker, officials said.
“We know he in the past has had a number of rifles, scopes and handguns. He purchased some kind of bulletproof vest,” West said.
Clues to Keller’s whereabouts came while investigators were processing evidence at his house, authorities said. People in the area also reported seeing Keller’s pickup truck near the trailhead.
“This isn’t a hole in the ground. This is a large built-up structure,” Strachan said of the bunker. “But hidden. It took some time to find it. In fact our tactical team smelled the wood smoke coming before they actually saw it.”
Strachan said Keller’s house nearby was set afire Sunday after the slayings, but it failed to spread beyond the kitchen. Authorities found a hard drive with photos, he told CNN Seattle affiliate KING.
One photo was enhanced and it aided in the search for Keller, who authorities said had been building the bunker for at least eight years.
“We believe he has taken pictures from 2004 to the present day,” West. said
She said she did not know the precise size of the bunker, made partially of earth and logs.
“We believe it is very large,” the spokeswoman said. “He has had plenty of time to work on it.”
The sheriff’s office this week obtained an arrest warrant for Keller stipulating two counts of first-degree murder and first-degree arson.
Members of the sheriff's Bomb Disposal Unit were sent in to clear the bunker to ensure there were no planted explosives or booby traps.
Keller had spent eight years building the bunker into the side of Rattlesnake Ridge in the Cascade mountains, police said. It was thoroughly camouflaged and had multiple levels. Photos of the inside of the bunker, released by the King County Sheriff's Office, showed a shelf full of ammunition boxes stacked inside Ziploc bags.On Friday, authorities pumped tear gas into the structure after locating it in the Cascade foothills east of Seattle. The dozens of officers didn't immediately enter the bunker because they believed its occupant was armed, and that it might be booby-trapped.
Officers kept watch over the bunker overnight.
With clear weather and a fresh SWAT team in place Saturday morning, it was time to act more aggressively, King County sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.
Hostage negotiators were dropped Saturday morning by helicopter into the rugged site. They were among morethan 100 officers and volunteers from the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Seattle Police Department and other area agencies were on hand.
No police were injured in the siege. Two officers were treated for dehydration and hypothermia from chilly overnight temperatures and released, Larson said.
The raid ended a tense week for law enforcement officials who tried to track down Keller, a gun enthusiast described by his family as having a "survivalist mentality." That Keller was likely armed and on the loose in an extremely popular hiking and mountain-biking area east of Seattle kept many people on edge.
"There's been a huge sigh of relief," Larson said. "Our people are out safe, and the trails are now safe for the community to use."Keller had spent eight years building the bunker into the side of Rattlesnake Ridge, police said. It was thoroughly camouflaged and had multiple levels. Photos of the inside of the bunker, released by the King County Sheriff's Office, showed a shelf full of ammunition boxes stacked inside Ziploc bags.
SWAT teams spent a grueling seven hours on the mountainside Friday morning, virtually crawling over dangerously steep terrain slick with mud from recent rains, before they found the bunker. A number of officers were treated intravenously for dehydration, and one broke his ankle, said sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West said.After long shifts, the officers appeared exhausted, their faces smeared with camouflage paint, as they rode down the mountain in sport-utility vehicles or armored carriers to be replaced by fresher teams.
SWAT officers who kept watch on the bunker through Friday night said they saw lights going on and off, and they believed its occupant had everything necessary to remain inside for a long time — including a generator, food, gas mask, bullet-resistant vest and many guns.
Photographs found in Keller's home after the killings gave authorities an idea of where it was; in one picture that they enhanced, detectives could make out buildings in nearby North Bend. Combined with reports from alert hikers who remembered seeing his faded red pickup truck at the Rattlesnake Ridge trailhead, the sheriff's office sent experienced trackers to the area, where they found off-trail boot prints confirming their belief that he was somewhere on the ridge.
They could smell smoke from its woodstove before they found it.
Authorities pumped tear gas into the structure Friday, but it failed to flush the occupant — either because it didn't penetrate deep enough into the structure, or because the person had a gas mask.
Officers described the bunker as "amazingly fortified" and said the photos recovered from Keller's house don't do it justice, West said.
The bunker was found at about the 1,350-foot level, several hundred yards due east of a trailhead at Rattlesnake Ridge. It had several entryways and ladders.
Authorities had not positively identified the body as 41-year-old Peter Keller, who hadn't been seen since his wife and daughter were found shot to death last weekend, King County sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.
A bomb squad cleared the bunker, built into a ridge in the Cascade Mountains, to make sure there were no booby traps before detectives entered. Officers shouted warnings before blowing the roof, Larson said. Tear gas pumped into the bunker didn't work Friday. With clear weather and a fresh SWAT team in place Saturday morning, it was time to act more aggressively, she said.
It wasn't clear if any officers had heard the gunshot from inside the bunker, she said.
The raid ended a tense week for law enforcement officials who tried to track down Keller, a gun enthusiast described by his family as having a "survivalist mentality." That Keller was probably armed and on the loose in an extremely popular hiking and mountain-biking area east of Seattle kept many people on edge.
"There's been a huge sigh of relief," Larson said. "Our people are out safe, and the trails are now safe for the community to use."
Keller had spent eight years building the bunker into the side of Rattlesnake Ridge, police said. It was thoroughly camouflaged and had multiple levels. Photos of the inside of the bunker, released by the King County Sheriff's Office, showed a shelf full of ammunition boxes stacked inside zip-close bags.
SWAT teams spent a grueling seven hours on the mountainside Friday morning, virtually crawling over dangerously steep terrain slick with mud from recent rains, before they found the bunker. A number of officers were treated intravenously for dehydration, and one broke his ankle, sheriff's Sgt. Cindi West said.
An arrest warrant issued Wednesday accused Keller of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson; his home was set on fire after Keller's wife and daughter were shot.
King County Sheriff’s TAC 30 SWAT deputies used an explosive about 10:00 a.m. Saturday to breach the roof of the heavily fortified underground hideout, which allowed enough access for the deputies to enter the bunker.
Once inside deputies discovered a body, which they said looked like Keller and it appeared as though he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Sheriff’s Office then used their Bomb Disposal Unit to clear the bunker to ensure there were no explosive or booby traps waiting for officers.
Once the bunker was cleared detectives went in to conduct a crime scene investigation.
Meantime the King County Medical Examiner’s office will conduct an investigation to determine actual cause of death and positively identify the body.
Inside the bunker detectives say they found 13 guns and a number of shelves filled with boxes of ammunition as well as a stove, a water jug, sealed plastic containers, PVC pipe, a small trailer, a few cans of gasoline, some buckets and a ventilation system.
King County Sheriff Steve Strachan said earlier the bunker was not just a hole in the ground but is, “An elaborate structure.”
The events Saturday appear to have brought to an end a week of searching for a suspect they believe had murdered both his wife and daughter by gunshot on April 22.
Police believe the “survivalist” minded Peter Keller of North Bend invested some eight years of his life building a well-hidden, fortified underground bunker deep in the woods where he would survive the coming end of the world.
Yet it took the King County Sheriff’s Office only a week to find it and, apparently, force an end to Keller’s world, as he knew it.
The sheriffs office announced Friday that officers had found the hand made bunker that homicide suspect Keller was believed to be hiding in recently.
“The bunker is located in the hillside near the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail outside of the City of North Bend,” said Sgt. Cindi West of the sheriff’s office.
It was located in the southwest area above the trailhead.
“Sheriff’s Detectives found clues to the whereabouts of the bunker after processing the crime scene at the house where the women were murdered. Detectives also received tips from citizens who had seen Keller’s truck at the Rattlesnake Ridge Trailhead over the past year,” added West.
King County TAC 30 (a SWAT unit) and Seattle Police SWAT teams began a systematic search of the area Friday morning.
Based on the photos detectives discovered of the bunker at the crime scene (photos of the bunker under construction were found on a hard drive in a computer in the family home), Keller had been building it for at least 8 years.
The underground living unit appears to have been fortified by logs, dirt and was very well hidden said Sgt. Cindi West of the sheriff’s office.
Police said due to the location where the computer was found in the house that whoever set the blaze wanted that information destroyed in the flames but a rapid response by the fire department saved the evidence.
Power lines in one photo allowed authorities to determine that the bunker was 1,000 feet above sea level and a picture that had evidently been taken from the bunker looking out over the area - through photo enhancement techniques - revealed recognizable buildings and the North Bend outlet mall.
That allowed officers to understand the general direction from which that photo had been taken.
When they began searching for Keller law officers believed he was heavily armed and over the years may have rigged escape routes and even booby-traps in that bunker.
After SWAT teams found the bunker, King County Sheriff Steve Strachan told reporters there was concern that Keller might be lying in wait for officers to come in so he could ambush them.
On Friday officers dropped tear gas into the opening of the bunker but whoever was inside, if indeed anyone was inside, did not respond to the gas or commands by officers to give themselves up.
Some officers reportedly saw and heard movement in the bunker earlier in the day.
Officers found the location of the bunker during the search when someone smelled smoke that apparently was coming from a wood stove inside it.Earlier this week authorities asked area residents that regularly hike trails in the I-90 corridor area to call them if they remember seeing a red Toyota pickup truck routinely parked at any trail head in the last year.
Keller was known to be an avid hiker and spent a lot of time in the woods and police also said that Keller occasionally took his mountain bike with him and recently had been seen hiking with a “very large backpack.”
Keller, who had initially been a “person of interest” in the murders of his wife and daughter and was being sought by King County Sheriff’s deputies quickly became a named suspect in the murders. A warrant for his arrest was issued Wednesday afternoon for two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson. The charging documents stipulate that once apprehended Keller is to be held without bail.He is wanted in the shooting deaths of his wife Lynnette, 41 and daughter Kaylene Keller, 18. The two were found Sunday in the burned out home the three lived in, in the unincorporated area of North Bend.
The family pets, a cat and a dog were also found dead in the home, they too had been shot.
Lynnette and Peter Keller had been married for 21 years and lived at 47227 SW 159th Street in unincorporated North Bend. The home was a rental they had lived in for the past seven years.
The sheriff’s office says it was determined the women had been shot in the head with a .22 caliber weapon at close range and numerous gas cans were found inside the home that burned down.
Authorities say the fire was set by placing a plastic gas can into a skillet on the stove and turning on the burner