ABERDEEN, Wash. – Grays Harbor authorities believe a 31-year-old Aberdeen man killed an elderly Humptulips resident with a crossbow Friday night before attacking the man’s wife with a hatchet, hospitalizing her with critical injuries.
John F. Chase made his initial appearance in Grays Harbor District Court via video conference Monday on a second-degree murder allegation in the death of 88-year-old Ralph Aldrich.
Investigators believe the attack was random and unprovoked, explaining Chase was camping near the Aldrich property and likely came across the couple by chance. Chase reportedly told a friend he had “killed the demons.”
Grays Harbor Undersheriff Rick Scott said investigators have determined Chase set out from his Aberdeen apartment last week on his bicycle to camp in the Olympic National Forest.
Investigators have found no previous link between the Aldriches and Chase, Scott said.
“(Chase) was cutting through the Aldrich property,” Scott said, “when he shot Mr. Aldrich in the back with a crossbow, killing him.”
Aldrich’s nephew, David Aldrich, who lives a half-mile away, described Ralph as a longtime Humptulips resident who worked at the former ITT Rayonier paper mill in Hoquiam and in several local shake mills.
“I worked with him for years at the mills,” David said. “He was just a great guy, never had a bad thing to say about anybody.”
Investigators allege Chase dragged Aldrich’s body into the home’s carport and then heard someone moving inside the house. Scott said Chase took a hatchet inside and attacked June Aldrich.
Court records stated Chase then climbed into the Aldriches’ gray Chevrolet pickup truck and drove to a friend’s house in Hoquiam later Friday night. Witnesses at the home told investigators Chase acted erratically.
“The defendant explained to (a friend) that demons were out to get him,” court records stated. “He told (the friend) he had killed the demons.”
Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said officers spent a significant amount of time with Chase, convincing him to go to the Crisis Center and running a computer check on the truck.
“(The next day) some of those small details certainly came into focus,” he said. “In retrospect, there were things the officers could have inquired about.”
Undersheriff Scott said Chase’s friend searched the truck the next day and tried to call the Aldrich home. When he did not receive an answer, he drove to Humptulips and discovered Ralph Aldrich’s body at about 1:45 p.m. Saturday.