Washougal incident: Man suspected of sex crimes

Second day of investigation into fire, shooting ends

By Craig Brown, Columbian Metro Editor



The man who lives at the Washougal house destroyed by fire — and a blaze of gunfire — was due to turn himself in to authorities after coming under investigation for multiple sex crimes.

Steven D. Stanbary, 47, had negotiated through his attorney to surrender to Washougal police detectives on Thursday, the day after the fire at his home, according to a news release issued by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The Friday afternoon news release said Stanbary was being investigated for multiple sex crimes. Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Allais of the Major Crimes Team declined to be more specific about the charges, except to say they involved allegations of repeated incidents of abuse. Allais declined to say whether it involved more than one alleged victim or what the connection was to Stanbary.

Stanbary had a history of violence and mental instability. A 1994 psychologist’s report, compiled after he was arrested in Idaho for assaulting his ex-wife, described him as a “ticking time bomb.” He was called a white supremacist and admirer of Randy Weaver, who shot it out with federal law officers on Ruby Ridge in 1992.

In Washougal, where he and his wife had lived since 2002, he was known as a quiet self-employed landscaper who put on the best July 4 fireworks show in town.

On Friday, detectives from the Major Crimes team and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spent the daylight hours processing the crime scene.

“At least two sets of human remains” have been recovered, authorities said. At one point Friday, heavy equipment was brought in to deal with the jumbled ruins of the Stanbary house, shop building and large back yard.

Allais confirmed Friday that in addition to Steven Stanbary, the other residents of the home were his 50-year-old wife, Leona M. Bolton Stanbary, and her twin sister, Mona K. Daugherty.

The fact the women were identical twins will complicate the identification of the human remains, detectives said. As of Friday afternoon, the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office had not started performing examinations. Allais said positive identification of the remains would take “a long time.”

Investigators planned to work through the weekend. “We want to narrow down what they did that week,” Allais said, referring to Daugherty and Leona Stanbary. “All the circumstantial evidence around it, bank records and phone records.”

Anyone who saw any of the three residents since Monday is being asked to contact Detective Todd Barsness, 360-921-0403.

So far, this is what is known: At 8 a.m. Wednesday, someone set fire to the house at 3275 F Place in Washougal, a block off the main east-west street through town. When a police officer and a passerby stopped to see if they could help, they were greeted with gunshots by a man inside the home who shouted at the Samaritan to go away.

They retreated, and the fire was allowed to burn due to the danger posed to firefighters by the armed man, who reportedly continued shooting from the property for an estimated 90 minutes. There were other explosions throughout the day, too, as ammunition, fireworks and tanks full of propane or acetylene cooked off.

By evening, the house and a shop building had been destroyed by the fire and there was no human movement on the site.

Investigators returned to the site at daylight Thursday, after it had cooled down, and later reported finding two charred human bodies and the remains of several dogs. None of the three occupants has been seen alive since the incident began.

Reporters and photographers allowed to visit the neighborhood Thursday and Friday saw a jumbled site that contained the remains of vehicles, equipment and the burned buildings. A white five-gallon bucket was filled to the top with spent shell casings; several fire-damaged ammunition cans were piled next to it.

Detectives said the crime scene remains secured, with traffic limited to local residents.

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