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Missing women remain the key in Post Falls killings

Kootenai County sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Maskell stands in the area where newspaper carrier Gary Loesch was murdered in November 1995. Two years later, his widow, Barbara, was found slain at her Post Falls home. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Kootenai County sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Maskell stands in the area where newspaper carrier Gary Loesch was murdered in November 1995. Two years later, his widow, Barbara, was found slain at her Post Falls home. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

A man delivering newspapers is shot in the head in Post Falls.

Two years later, his wife is electrocuted and drowned – an unplugged television in the hot tub leading police to believe she’d been murdered, too.

As of this month, a decade has passed since the death of Barbara Loesch and more than 12 years since the slaying of her husband, Gary Loesch.

Yet, while one man is serving time for his part in Gary Loesch’s death, neither case has been closed.

The couple’s missing daughter and her partner are considered “persons of interest” in the crimes and have been connected by evidence to a third homicide, in Pullman. Their suspected motives in the Post Falls killings: a $500,000 insurance policy and a father-daughter relationship severed by his anger over learning she was a lesbian.

“The key to this case are these two here,” said Kootenai County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Maskell, tapping on years-old mug shots of Tina Loesch and Skye Hanson, who would now be 36 and 43 years old.

They were last seen loading an RV in Seattle in October 1999.

Always on time

Gary Loesch moved to Post Falls in 1986, according to previous news reports. He had married Barbara Stultz in 1969.

In addition to their daughter, they had a son, Charles, who was a young man living with his parents in the mid-1990s.

Gary Loesch worked for an amusement ride company in Post Falls for 10 years and took on the paper route for extra money. One of his customers was Maskell.

“I used to brag about what a good paper carrier he was,” the detective said. “He’d put the paper between my door and screen door” and was always on time.

Before dawn on Nov. 13, 1995, Loesch was on his route in a sparsely populated neighborhood outside Post Falls city limits. After 3 1/2 years, residents were familiar with the sound of his Toyota Camry and seeing the headlights as he brought them The Spokesman-Review.

When a resident was awakened by a loud noise and saw Loesch’s car, it was no surprise. But when that same man looked out his window hours later and the car was still there with its headlights beginning to dim, he called 911.

A sheriff’s deputy found Gary Loesch slumped over in a pool of blood, having been shot in the head.

“We had very few homicides and it was big news,” Maskell said. “It rocked the town.”

Because the 56-year-old Loesch followed an unvarying route and schedule, “this case was likely premeditated,” Maskell said. “Someone was very familiar with his routine and had the opportunity to pick the right area.”

Very little evidence was found, said Maskell, the latest detective to take on the case. But there were tire treads and footprints.

Police collected DNA evidence, Maskell said, “so we are familiar with at least the gender of the person” – information the detective won’t disclose.

The peacemaker

Shortly before Gary Loesch’s death, Barbara struggled over the rift between her husband and their daughter, authorities said.

Tina Loesch had told her father she was homosexual and in a relationship with Hanson. Gary Loesch rejected Tina and wrote her out of his will, said Post Falls police Lt. Greg McLean.

After Loesch’s murder, mother and daughter became closer, though Tina lived in Clarkston. In 1996, Tina Loesch took out a $525,000 life insurance policy on Barbara Loesch, naming herself as the beneficiary, McLean said.

On the night 52-year-old Barbara Loesch was killed, Tina Loesch went to her mother’s home with a Clarkston friend named Bradley Steckman. She told her mother their car had broken down and they needed to stay with her, Steckman later told authorities.

Convicted in 2001 of murdering an 89-year-old Pullman woman during a robbery, Steckman told police from behind bars that he played a role in Barbara Loesch’s murder as well. Tina Loesch and Hanson offered him $10,000 to do it – money Steckman never received, McLean said.

Barbara Loesch used the hot tub because of a medical problem, Steckman said. So they planned a murder in which Steckman would trip and push the television – which had been tweaked to deliver maximum amps – into the water.

Once that plan had been carried out, Steckman said, he held Loesch under water about two minutes.

Tina Loesch “fell apart on the way back home, crying and vomiting,” Steckman told police.

Hanson then drove to Post Falls to make sure things had been done right, Steckman said.

Barbara Loesch’s death initially was ruled accidental by a coroner, so the life insurance benefit was paid to her daughter, McLean said. When Tina Loesch received payment with the help of Spokane attorney Julie Twyford, she signed it over to Hanson, according to past news accounts.

Not only did Steckman implicate the women in Barbara Loesch’s death, he also admitted that two years earlier he had scoped out Gary Loesch’s paper route for Hanson.

“But he swears he didn’t fire the fatal shot,” McLean said.

Authorities who searched the Clarkston house shared by Tina Loesch and Hanson say they found evidence from the Pullman murder of Dorothy Martin – the woman Steckman was convicted of killing. Hanson had done housekeeping work for Martin, The Spokesman-Review has previously reported.

Steckman is serving concurrent prison sentences for the murders of Barbara Loesch and Dorothy Martin, and is eligible for parole in 2016.

He did not respond to a written request for an interview at Airway Heights Corrections Center, and no one from the Loesch family could be located for comment.

Tina and Skye

Tina Loesch and Hanson met in the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise.

Hanson was there for manufacturing drugs. Loesch was doing a stint for theft, forgery and stealing a car.

After they were released, the two lived together in Clarkston and Pullman. Tina Loesch’s son, Kristopher Loesch, lived with them at least part of the time.

McLean says Hanson dominated the relationship. She liked tropical fish. She owned a 1977 Firebird and a 1995 Corvette.

Hanson owned five houses in Whitman County. She bought fixer-uppers and rented them out when they were repaired.

In 2006, a Spokane Valley man, Steve Cassell, was indicted for illegal money transactions while selling those houses. The indictment was dismissed in March 2007, but police still suspect Cassell was sending money to the missing women.

Cassell is married to Twyford, the attorney who had helped settle Barbara Loesch’s insurance policy – and the same attorney who represented South Hill rapist Kevin Coe.

In 2000, police learned that Kristopher Loesch was living with Twyford and Cassell. The boy was enrolled at Spokane’s Shiloh Hills Elementary School under the name Christopher Robinson, authorities said.

But when police went to Shiloh Hills, the boy had stopped showing up. No one had requested that his transcripts be forwarded to another school.

Authorities say Twyford and Cassell denied knowing anything about the boy’s or women’s whereabouts. But Hanson’s Corvette had been seen in the couple’s garage, police said.

Kristopher Loesch, who would now be about 17, has not been accounted for since he left school.

Tags: Cold Case

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