A woman kidnapped for ransom in southern Washington state was found dead over the weekend, two days after her disappearance and the arrest of a suspect who was known to the victim, police said on Monday.
A passing motorist discovered the body of Sandra Harris, 69, lying in some roadside brush on Sunday several miles from her home in the town of Kennewick, about 200 miles (322 km) southeast of Seattle, according to Kennewick police and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
The county coroner will perform an autopsy later this week to determine the cause and time of the victim’s death, police said. No other details about her fate were immediately available.
Her spouse called authorities on Friday to say she had been abducted from their home, and within hours police and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation made contact with a suspect, who demanded a ransom payment for the safe turn of Harris.
An undisclosed sum of money was dropped at a prearranged location Friday night, and a short time later authorities apprehended the suspect, Theresa L. Wilste, 49, in the neighboring town of Eltopia, where they found her driving a rental car, police said.
Harris remained missing until her remains turned up on Sunday morning, according to police.
Police said Wilste was known to the victim and her husband, Randy Harris, but the nature and duration of their acquaintance remained under investigation, a police spokesman, Sergeant Ken Lattin.
Wilste was the only suspect in custody, but police said they have not ruled out the possibility that other individuals may have been involved, though no other specific persons were being sought in the case.
Lattin said the husband was not a suspect.
Police have determined that Harris was forcibly taken from her home against her will, but “what force was used of what level of force is still part of the investigation,” Lattin said.
“Investigators have much work to do yet, and the details that explain ‘why’ this happened will come forth in court proceedings,” police said in a statement.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles