3 found guilty in 2017 quadruple killing of Washington family

Apr 6, 2024, 10:27 AM

Image: The late Careaga family....

The late Careaga family. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

A jury has found three men guilty of killing a family in Washington in 2017, crimes detectives asserted happened over drugs and money.

Danie Kelly, Jr., Robert Watson III, and Watson’s younger brother, Johnny Watson, were each found guilty Friday of four counts of premeditated first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and first-degree arson, KING-TV reported.

Past coverage: Three men charged in connection to 2017’s quadruple homicide in Seabeck

Christale Careaga, 37, Hunter Schaap and Johnathon Higgins, both 16, were found dead inside their burned home on the Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle on Jan. 27, 2017. The remains of John Careaga, 43, were found two days later inside a scorched truck at a tree farm in Mason County.

The Careagas owned Juanito’s Taqueria, a successful Mexican restaurant in Bremerton. In court documents, detectives said John Careaga also brought cocaine from California every couple of months to sell locally.

A close friend of his began selling the cocaine to Robert Watson, whom detectives identified as a leader in a local chapter of the Bandidos motorcycle club, authorities said. Investigators have said the killings weren’t related to the club.

Careaga’s friend eventually stopped selling, and the next time Careaga went to California to get the drugs, Robert Watson took a trip there “on John’s heels,” and dialogue between the two intensified until the day of the homicides, according to investigators.

John Careaga’s attorney told authorities that Careaga had hidden hundreds of thousands of dollars underneath his home, but that money was never found, investigators said.

According to the court records, Robert Watson, an employee of Kitsap County Public Works, stopped going to work and was eventually fired in September 2017. Detectives said about $303,000 was deposited into his accounts that year, and that there were “numerous cash deposits that the source could not be identified.”

Kelly was associated with the Bandidos as a “hang-around,” and had been a good friend of Careaga before a falling out, detectives said.

A neighbor of the Careagas heard gunshots at the house the day of the murders and reported seeing John Careaga’s truck speeding away, with Kelly at the wheel and another car following close behind.

During the monthslong jury trial, defense attorneys worked to cast doubt on the timeline and cellphone towers used to track the trio’s movements. Defense attorneys also argued that no evidence existed of anything being taken from the Careaga home.

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3 found guilty in 2017 quadruple killing of Washington family