As darkness fell in Spokane on Feb. 28, 1993, Arthur Haines closed the curtains of his modest North Side home, a part of his everyday routine that would never happen again.
When his eldest son arrived the next day for a scheduled check, he found the 87-year-old beaten, lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. A smoky stench lingered from a blaze in the master bedroom – a killer’s attempt to destroy evidence, police say.
Haines died in his North Washington Street home sometime after sunset. His killer’s identity remains unknown.
The case is one of the Spokane Police Department’s 28 unsolved homicide cases since 1986.
Detectives believe that scientific technology, the memories of residents and a fresh approach could help crack old cases like Haines’ homicide.
“This is Arthur,” a detective said recently as he slid a labeled cardboard box onto an interrogation room table.The box contained every detail gathered by investigators – beginning with the first patrolman who responded to the 911 call – about Haines’ life and death.
The detective, Mark Burbridge, is one of four investigators to look into Haines’ homicide.
He thinks a soda can submitted in November 2005 to a Washington State Patrol crime lab for DNA analysis could be the key to finding Haines’ killer. The can hasn’t been tested yet because of a backlog of thousands of DNA samples, about 300 cases, waiting for processing at the Washington State Patrol crime lab in Cheney.
Despite the backup, though, the nine detectives in the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit keep bulldogging old cases.The homicide
“I learned about it when I saw it on the news,” said Yvone Haines, Arthur’s last surviving child. “I didn’t know what they said on the news, but I knew my dad’s house. I saw the tape and the flashing lights, and I called the police.”
After 14 years, the 62-year-old says: “I don’t know who killed my dad, or why, but I believe whoever did it has killed before.”
As Yvone Haines spoke about her father from her Ellensburg home, she recalled his habitual nature, a key to helping detectives develop a timeline for the homicide.
Haines awoke about 5:30 a.m., a routine he kept from his days working at a dairy, she said. He almost always had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Then he would open the curtains and read the newspaper.
Using a cane, he’d go on a mid-afternoon neighborhood walk. Dinner was always between 5 and 6 p.m. At dusk, he closed the curtains.
He never drank coffee, always tea.
And “my dad never drank pop from a can,” Haines said. “He always poured the soda into a glass.” Then he’d place the empty containers – two each day – neatly on the counter.
So the can of Minute Maid orange soda found in Haines’ living room was out of place, and detectives think whoever killed Haines drank it as he rummaged through the house. Detectives presume the killer is a male.
According to the autopsy and Haines’ routines, investigators think he was killed between 8 and 10 p.m.
“I think Arthur was sitting at the table getting ready to have tea when they walked in,” Burbridge said. “Or he didn’t hear them knock, and they didn’t think he was there.”
Relatives insist Haines always locked his doors, but police found no signs of a forced entry.
After the father of four was cornered in the kitchen, he was beaten with an object that left silver dollar-shaped gashes on his head and punctured a hole in his skull. The blows knocked Haines to the floor, where he was left bleeding.
Phone cords in his living room and bedroom were ripped out of the walls, which detectives think was done in case Haines survived to dial 911.
The intruder rummaged through the elderly man’s house. Shoeboxes were pulled out of the closets, drawers dumped and jewelry boxes rifled. The thief took Haines’ Seiko watch, pigskin wallet, French or European coins, several silver dollars, a box of canceled checks and his late wife’s 22-karat gold wedding ring, which Haines wore on a chain around his neck. Checkbooks and credit cards were left behind, detectives said.
Before the intruder left, he scrawled specific symbols throughout the house, but his inexperience or youth was apparent because some of the symbols were wrong. Police refused to identify the symbols.
A fire was set in the bedroom before the killer walked out the front door.
Haines, slipper-clad and wearing casual pants and a white undershirt, was alive as the fire burned in his home. The blaze eventually burned out, because the house was so airtight.
When Haines’ eldest son found his father’s body, the smell of smoke still hung in the air and soot covered the windows. The son reportedly ran to a neighbor’s home to call 911, then back to grab his father’s checkbook.
No weapons were recovered. Investigators did determine that a walking cane next to Haines’ body wasn’t used to beat him.
Police interviewed pawnshop employees, but they didn’t recall any of the stolen items being hocked, according to police reports.
Despite freshly fallen snow, there were too many shoe prints for investigators to determine which ones might have belonged to the killer.
According to news accounts at the time, neighbors told police they didn’t see anything unusual the night Haines was killed.The suspects
Haines’ eldest son, a grandson and burglars with arson in their backgrounds were among the 75 people police questioned about the homicide.
His son, Maurice Haines, was considered a suspect because detectives thought it odd that he grabbed his father’s checkbook following the discovery of his dad’s death. A clean polygraph exam convinced detectives Maurice Haines was not the killer.
Greg Bishop, a grandson, was also questioned by detectives. He didn’t have a car or permanent address and had been in and out of trouble.
Bishop, whose last known address was in Spokane, is wanted on bench warrants from Spokane for failure to pay court fines. He is believed to be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
“Most people are killed by someone in their family or someone they know,” Burbridge said regarding investigators’ questioning of Haines’ family members.
A young man who had shoveled snow just days before the homicide was also considered as a possible suspect, but detectives were never able to identify him.
Investigators have concluded that the killer was likely a male between 14 and his early 20s who was alone. Their reasoning: The intruder only took items he could walk away with, which is typical of a young burglar who doesn’t drive or an immature 20-something. If there had been more than one person, they might have tried to carry away larger items, Burbridge said. The strength the killer needed to cause such deep wounds in Haines’ skull would be uncommon for a woman.
When Burbridge received Haines’ file, he compared burglaries that had occurred near the home during the six months before and after the slaying.
A burglary before the homicide matched almost exactly, including identical symbols spray-painted inside the home, but no suspect was arrested in that case. The detective found several cases in which a suspect had taken only small items, specifically jewelry and coins, but no symbols were spray-painted on the walls. The burglarized locations were within walking distance of Haines’ residence.
“We also went through all the arrests for burglaries at that time,” Burbridge said, referring to himself and now-retired Detective Mindy Connelly, one of the original investigators of Haines’ death. “We had a list of 40 and narrowed it down to about 10 who we looked at. We were able to rule out all but two or three, and those people gave voluntary DNA.” A couple of the 10 weren’t found.The family
Arthur Haines and his wife, Clarice Ann, met in England as teenagers. From then on, the two were inseparable, Yvone Haines said. “My dad adored my mother. He called her Lovey.”
The couple lived in Birmingham, England, where they were raising a family. They lived a privileged life, Haines said.
When their eldest daughter, Jean, married and moved to Sandpoint, the family followed in February 1949.
The family lived in Sandpoint for several years, and Arthur worked as a milk tester and delivery driver for Darigold. When he was transferred to Spokane some years later, the family moved again.
The couple kept a tidy home with “gleaming windows” and a manicured yard filled with flowers to accent the white house, Haines said.
Clarice Ann developed a brain tumor and died in 1985. Arthur’s heart was broken, his daughter said.
For years after her father’s homicide, when Yvone Haines visited Spokane she couldn’t help but stare at people’s wrists looking for her father’s stolen Seiko watch.
Spokane detectives only recently learned that Yvone Haines was Haines’ last surviving child; investigators say it makes the urgency to solve the case even more fierce.
Sept. 2 update
Since a story about Arthur Haines’ murder was published in The Spokesman-Review on July 29, Spokane Police have received two tips.
One came from a man who lived in Haines’ North Washington Street neighborhood, who told detectives of a man he’d befriended named Eddie. The tipster said he once caught Eddie looking through Haines’ windows, and thought police should consider him a possible suspect. Eddie was deported to Central America about eight months after Haines was killed.
The other came from one of Haines’ granddaughters, who called detectives to say her now-deceased brother and some of the people he hung out with were engaging in questionable behavior at the time of her grandfather’s death.
Detectives say they also have eight to 10 DNA samples from possible suspects they will compare with a sample taken from the crime scene once it’s processed by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.
- Jody Lawrence-Turner