Oakesdale resident Peter Zornes may have escorted frightened co-worker Louissa Thompson home the day they were allegedly killed by Thompson's ex-boyfriend Trevor Saunders, the mayor of Oakesdale said Monday.I agree. Young promising lives were senselessly snuffed out and two little boys are now without a mother. This is a tremendous tragedy that will ripple through the Palouse for a long time to come.
"Unfortunately, it looks like he was playing the Good Samaritan role and was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Mayor Russell Rickett said of Zornes.
Pullman police found the bodies of Pullman resident Thompson, 27, Zornes, 25, and Moscow resident Saunders, 29, Saturday evening at the Statesman Condominiums in northwest Pullman. They are calling the deaths a double murder-suicide.
Police also found a semiautomatic pistol in the condo they believe may be connected to the deaths.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, acting as spokesman for the police department, said the three were apparently shot to death sometime Saturday.
Police have not named any suspects. Police Commander Chris Tennant said autopsies on the three bodies will be conducted today in Pullman. A suspect likely will be announced sometime this afternoon after the autopsies are done, Tennant said.
Rickett had been to Zornes' family home in Oakesdale Monday to pay his respects. Zornes' father is Tom Zornes, a former Oakesdale mayor and city councilor.
Tom Zornes told Rickett his son had just worked one of his first shifts at the ShopKo department store in Pullman. Thompson told Peter Zornes she was afraid to go home because of trouble with Saunders, and he agreed to escort her, Rickett said.
Tom Zornes raised the initial concern that led police to the bodies, Tennant said. He called ShopKo to talk to his son, but he hadn't shown up for work. A worried ShopKo manager then asked police to do the welfare check at the Statesman Condominiums, Tennant said.
Saunders pleaded guilty to rape in Latah County in 1996, a check of his court records revealed. He was listed as a registered sex offender in Idaho at the time of his death.
According to court records, Saunders was depressed and suicidal in the late 1990s while he was on probation for the crime, attempted suicide once and threatened to kill all the people involved in his rape case.
"(Saunders) said he had attempted suicide by taking a whole bottle of aspirin and Tylenol," according to a report written by an unidentified job counselor in 1998, and included in Saunders' court records. "Said if he had a gun he would shoot" everyone involved in his case, the counselor's report continued.
The counselor wrote that Saunders continued to vent, and when he was told by the counselor that the threats had to be reported, Saunders backed down.
"He said he didn't really mean it, he was just packing a lot of anger around," the job counselor wrote.
Saunders had violated his probation multiple times by not holding down a job or receiving sex offender counseling, according to the court file.
In one of several probation violation reports, Saunders' probation officer wrote that Saunders felt he got a raw deal because two others had sex with the same 16-year-old girl he pleaded guilty to raping, she was a willing participant, and didn't complain to police until seven months after the incident.
"Mr. Saunders sees himself as the victim in the crime he has been charged with and has only shown immaturity and resentment when attempts to motivate him have been offered," wrote probation officer Tom Blewett.
Saunders attended Moscow High School, but never graduated, according to the court file. He was most recently employed as a deliveryman at the Furniture Center in Moscow, said Latah County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jennifer McFarland.
There is nothing in Saunders' court file after 1999. He has a clean record after that, McFarland said.
Chuck Janssen, ShopKo's regional human resources supervisor from Spokane, said Thompson was a valued employee of eight years and that Zornes had been hired as seasonal help a week before his death.
Janssen was in Pullman Monday to help console employees, as was a counselor who will stay at the store as needed, Janssen said.
"It's definitely a sullen environment in the store right now," Janssen said.
Thompson has two young children who were found safe at their father's house in Pullman, Tennant said. Thompson and the father are divorced, he added, and the father has been eliminated as a suspect.
Washington State University spokesman James Tinney said Zornes was a student there. He graduated with honors in 2003, earning a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience in four years.
Oakesdale Mayor Rickett said Zornes was well known in his community.
"He was quite active in high school," Rickett said. "It's a tragic affair. The town is, I'm sure, really going to support them (the Zornes family)."
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Murder Victim Was Samaritan, Mayor Says
From today's Lewiston Tribune: