Police find body of murder suspect inside fortified bunkeron April 27, 2012 @ 2:44 pm (Updated: 10:08 am - 4/30/12 )
The King County Sheriff's Office sent word via Twitter on Saturday that they'd found the body, nearly 23 hours after they first located the structure carved into the side of Rattlesnake Ridge.
Sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson says a tactical team used explosives to breach the top of the bunker, and when they looked inside they found a man who appeared to be 41-year- old Keller dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Police had been surrounding the rugged underground bunker since it was located on Friday. With clear weather and a fresh SWAT team in place Saturday morning, it was time to act more aggressively, 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.
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.
Court documents described Keller as a loner who has a survivalist mentality and has been stockpiling supplies in the woods.
An arrest warrant issued Wednesday accuses him of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first- degree arson; the home was set on fire after Keller's wife and daughter were shot.
The fire at Keller's home was stopped before the house burned down, and authorities said they found seven gasoline cans placed in different areas of the home.
The King County medical examiner has determined Kaylene Keller, 18, and her mother, Lynnettee Keller, 41, both died from gunshots to the head. Their bodies were found in their bedrooms.
Kaylene's boyfriend told detectives that Peter Keller had shown him his gun collection and several large-caliber rifles and handguns, court documents said. The boyfriend, who was not identified, said Kaylene had told him her father took long hikes on the weekends and was stockpiling supplies at a fort in the woods.
Peter Keller withdrew $6,200 from a bank last week and told one of his co-workers at a computer refurbishing store in Preston that he might not return, according to court documents.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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