Cleanup of Washougal standoff, fire site provides relief to neighbors

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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WASHOUGAL — Marikay Jester avoided working in her garden until recently. Her delay had nothing to do with persistent rain and chilly temperatures.

Across from her yard, the gnarled wreckage of metal, tree limbs and scorched Earth served as a painful reminder to her neighbor Steven Stanbary’s decision to end his life and the lives of his wife, Leona Bolton Stanbary, and her twin sister, Mona Daugherty, in a hail of bullets and fire on Dec. 7.

“Everyday when you step out and you smell the ashes it has an impact whether or not you’re looking at it,” Jester said while standing outside her front door.

On Monday, April 2, an excavator lifted metal scraps into a 40-yard dumpster and two workers separated debris into piles, some several feet high, as the cleanup of Stanbary’s property at 3275 F Place continued, nearly four months after his death. The work started Thursday.

Stanbary’s neighbors on F Place expressed relief they would no longer live in the shadow of the hell Stanbary wrought. They hoped the cleanup would also allow their neighborhood to go back to being the quiet, uneventful place it was prior to Dec. 7, instead of a morbid tourist’s attraction.

Bank of America, which holds the lien on the property, is paying for the cleanup, said Sherry Montgomery, Washougal’s code enforcement officer. Bids for the project ran between $30,000 and $40,000. Regal Services in Vancouver won the contract, Montgomery said.

The dirt on the property is being smoothed and the concrete removed. At least three dumpsters have been filled with debris, Montgomery said. On Monday, piles with tree branches and miscellaneous items were stacked eight to 10 feet high.

The Stanbary property has four trucks and one travel trailer on it. What will happen with the vehicles remains undetermined. So does what will happen with the trees on the Stanbary property, Montgomery said.

“I would hope if I continue in this job the rest of my life that I wouldn’t see anything like this (again),” Montgomery said.

F Place residents shared Montgomery’s thoughts.

Lyman West and his wife, Dea Taylor-West, had befriended Stanbary, who lived across the street. West hoped the cleanup would allow his wife to heal.

“She would wake up in the middle of the night and look at (the Stanbary property),” West said. “Now that it will be cleaned up it will be better for her.”

Traffic on the street should go back to normal too, West added. Seven or eight different vehicles passed the property each day after Dec. 7. That will change, West predicted.

The cleanup might also change the route Sharon Gravelle takes her granddaughter to Hathaway Elementary School.

Gravelle, who lived two doors down from Stanbary, drives through the Safeway parking lot rather than past the Stanbary house.

“It’s going to be easier once it gets cleaned out,” said Gravelle, who’s lived on F Place for 30 years. “It’s just a horrible reminder.”

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend;www.twitter.com/col_smallcities;ray.legendre@columbian.com