A 59-year-old man from Victor, Mont., was arrested Monday by detectives from the King County Sheriff’s Office cold case unit on suspicion of murdering a 28-year-old Kirkland woman who disappeared in 1996.
The sheriff’s office would not say what evidence allowed it to make the arrest, or provide the suspect’s name. But he was a co-worker of Sandi Rae Johnson, a mother of two who disappeared after leaving her Kirkland-area home on April 26, 1996, on her way to the Bellevue Square Mall in her Ford Escort.
“This is a case our cold case unit had been working on, and they had some good leads,” said Deputy Charlie Akers, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
According to media reports in the past, police had arrested in 1997 a 43-year-old man in the case, but released him because Johnson’s body had not been found. He subsequently moved to Montana.
Within days Johnson's car was found in Burien and her purse found in a Rainier Valley parking lot. But her remains were not discovered until eight years later, when her bones were found by a Washington State Department of Transportation worker along Highway 410 near Greenwater, outside of Enumclaw.
Johnson lived in the Kingsate area at the time, which was then in unincorporated King County. She was reported missing when she failed to pick up her two children from daycare.
Akers said the suspect would be extradited to King County, likely in the next couple of days, unless he fights extradition.
In a news release, newly elected King County Sheriff John Urquhart said: “This proves what can be done with a dedicated cold case unit that follows-up on leads and conducts thorough investigations. The Sheriff’s Office remains committed to finding ways to seek justice in murder cases, no matter how much time has passed.”