Deputies said Saturday the Washougal house fire and gunfire-filled standoff has been ruled a murder-suicide and that homeowner and suspect Steven Stanbary is believed dead.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office issued a release saying the heavily burned remains of at least two people have not been positively identified, but it’s believed Stanbary is one of them.
“Based upon the totality of information known to detectives at this time, investigators believe strongly that Steve Stanbary is the suspect and this his remains have likely been recovered,” the press release said.
Investigators believe Stanbury is dead because of circumstantial evidence and identifying items found close to the body. Physical evidence and video also show that Stanbary was found in one portion of the residence, while other remains were found on the opposite side of the house, said Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Allais.
Stanbary’s wife, Leona Bolton Stanbary, and her twin sister, Mona Daugherty, also lived at the home at 3275 F Place. Family members have said on Facebook that all three are presumed dead.
It’s unclear whether the remains that aren’t Steve Stanbary are one person or two because of the intense heat of the fire; complicating the process is that Leona Stanbary’s sister is her identical twin and, therefore, the two have the same DNA, Allais said.
A forensic anthropologist from King County is expected to analyze the charred remains Sunday. Meanwhile, investigators have obtained DNA samples from family members for comparison, Allais said. It will likely take several weeks to identify the remains because of how heavily burned they are, he added.
“It’s not often that (fire officials) see a fire of this magnitude,” the detective sergeant said. “Fires are usually suppressed in a timely manner.”
Stanbary, a 47-year-old known to be violent and heavily armed, had been under investigation for multiple sex crimes. He was supposed to turn himself in to police the day after the fire and standoff.
Instead, the morning of Dec. 7, Stanbary’s home went up in flames. Neighbors who tried to alert residents inside were met with gunfire, as were responding police and firefighters. The gunman, now identified as Stanbary, fired from multiple firearms for 90 minutes, keeping firefighters and police at bay, investigators said.
No one outside the house was seriously injured; a Washougal police officer whose patrol car was hit by a round suffered minor injuries from the shattered glass.
Police have not released details about the sex crime investigation against Stanbary. He has a history of violence and has been diagnosed with delusional schizophrenia, according to police reports. Arrested in December 1994 after threatening to kill his ex-wife, children and himself, he was found to have numerous weapons, including AK-47s.
His ex-wife had told police that Stanbary thought Christmas was a satanic holiday and idolized white separatist Randy Weaver.
Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-735-4516.