Three bodies found in Washougal home

Sisters died of gunshot wounds before house burned to the ground

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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Five days after a raging house fire and shoot out stunned the small town of Washougal, police confirmed yesterday that the remains of three people were found among the blackened ashes and rubble.

According to an update issued by Washougal Police Department Chief Ron Mitchell, the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office and Dr. Kathy Taylor PhD of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that the bodies of Leona M. Bolton-Stanbary, 50, Mona K. Daugherty, 50, and Steven D. Stanbary, 47, were recovered from the scene at 3275 F Place.

Bolton-Stanbary and Daugherty, identical twin sisters, died of gunshot wounds prior to the house being consumed by fire.

“The cause of death for Steven Stanbary has yet to be determined,” Mitchell added.

According to Clark County Sgt. Kevin Allais, more than 20 investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, the Clark County Regional Major Crimes Team, and an arson dog from the Portland Police Department had been combing the scene since Thursday.

That day at least two of the bodies, as well as four dead dogs were discovered. At least one of the dogs died of a gunshot wound.

Initially police wouldn’t comment on a possible motive for what was described as a murder-suicide, but on Friday it was revealed that Stanbary had been under investigation for multiple sex crimes.

A day before the incident, Washougal detectives had arranged for Stanbary to turn himself into police on Thursday.

Good Samaritan gets unexpected response

Witnesses initially reported seeing the house on fire Wednesday morning, but the situation quickly took a drastic and dangerous turn.

Washougal resident Bobby Bean said he was headed into work just after 8 a.m. when he saw flames and smoke coming from the house on F Place.

He parked his 1967 Mustang, ran up to the residence, then pounded on the door and tried to open it to see if anyone was inside. Bean said he then heard a man inside shout ‘get away’ followed by gunshots that were fired through the house’s front window.

“There were a lot of gunshots,” Bean said as he stood at the Minit-Mart on 32nd Street just a few hours later. “It was pretty scary.”

Bean said he ran away and took cover behind a Jeep that was parked on the street. He couldn’t remember exactly how long he was hiding.

“It seemed like forever.”

Bean said he did not know the man inside the house, and wasn’t even able to get a good look at him.

“I could have been shot,” he said, clearly shaken. “But he chose not to shoot me and I am thankful for that.”

“I don’t know anything about him,” Bean added. “I just came to help somebody and I got a little different experience.”

Suspect shoots at police vehicle

Officer Dan McPherson was the first emergency responder to arrive on scene, His vehicle was hit by at least four bullets as he drove up to the house investigate.

McPherson, a 5-year veteran of the department, received only very minor injuries on his left arm from breaking glass, according to Mitchell. He is currently on critical incident leave.

“I think he escaped death by maybe eight inches,” Mitchell said Monday.

Stanbary fired hundreds of gunshots throughout the morning from high-powered rifles and handguns, but police did not return fire.

“They were coming in 20-round bursts,” said WPD Sgt. Allen Cook.

There were no other reports of injuries to officers or neighbors from the gunshots.

Claude Rorabaugh, who lives five houses east of the Stanbary home on F Place, said he wasn’t sure what to think when he first heard the sound of a small explosion.

“I was working, heard what I first thought was a small explosion like that of an electric transformer. Then more shots,” he said. “My first thought was someone was robbing the drug store or the bank across the street from me.”

Firefighters told to stand back

Speaking at the scene on Wednesday morning, Camas Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Larimer said when firefighters arrived at F Place they were informed by police officers of a shooting.

“We were all told to stay behind this building [Evergreen Marketplace at 32nd Street] because there was an active shooting in progress,” Larimer said. “We have just been standing down and developing a plan for when we are needed.”

Larimer said there were three engines and three medic units on scene, positioned at different perimeter locations.

Between 11:30 a.m. and noon, two large fireballs followed by billowing, thick black and white smoke erupted from the scene. At least one of those booms was due to the explosion of a propane tank, according to Allais.

Allais said the house and its outbuildings were completely destroyed by the fire, which burned itself out. It was only just before 6 p.m. that the scene was deemed secure and firefighters were able to extinguish what remained of the fire and preserve evidence.

“At times, [the day] was very trying,” WFD Chief Ron Schumacher said Monday.

No other homes were damaged by the fire.

All businesses and residences within a four-block area between 32nd and 34th Streets, and between Evergreen Way and Webster Lane were evacuated.

Four schools, Hathaway and Gause elementary schools and Washougal and Excelsior high schools, remained locked down until about 3:30 p.m.

Most of the neighborhood was reopened and power restored by 6 p.m.

Dozens of law enforcement and emergency personnel responded to the scene Wednesday, including Washougal, Camas and Vancouver police, the Washougal and Camas fire departments, East County Fire and Rescue, Portland Police Department bomb squad, Washington State Patrol, Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Southwest Washington Regional SWAT Team.

“The Washougal Police Department would like to publicly thank all of the agencies that assisted and continue to assist in this investigation,” Mitchell said. “We would also like to thank the friends, neighbors and residents who assisted in the investigation.”

Although the on-scene investigation has concluded and F Place is now fully open to traffic, the case is still considered active. Anyone with additional information should call the WPD at 835-8701.

— Danielle Frost and Dawn Feldhaus contributed to this article.