A tracked cellphone signal led police Monday to the body of the suspected killer they had been hunting ever since a mother and her two children were found dead Friday in their north Spokane home.
A police dog found 22-year-old Dustin William Gilman’s body in a forested area near the Little Spokane River, north of the Spokane city limits, about 10 a.m. Gilman’s father and others had speculated earlier that he’d shot himself after fleeing the crime scene, but Spokane police did not disclose how Gilman died or whether firearms were found near his body.
Gilman is the only suspect in the deaths of Tracy Ann Ader, 32, and her sons, 8-year-old Kadin, and 10-year-old Damien, who were found dead in their home at 4411 N. Whitehouse St.
Interim Spokane police Chief Scott Stephens said Gilman’s father said his son was familiar with the area. The manhunt for Gilman focused on a broad area over the weekend until detectives obtained more specific cellphone tower information that led them to focus on a smaller area. Gilman’s body was located in a “plateau, cliff-like area” on 45 acres of private property, Stephens said. The property is owned by a retired orthopedic surgeon who police say has no connection to Gilman.
The discovery of Gilman’s body ended a 60-hour manhunt that included the discovery of Ader’s 2007 Nissan Pathfinder in a secured parking lot near Wellesley Avenue and Monroe Street on Sunday afternoon.
Detectives believe Gilman stole the SUV after committing the killings. They don’t know how he got to the Little Spokane River area and suspect he may have had help.
“Obviously, he didn’t walk here from the crime scene,” Stephens said while standing outside the property at 909 W. Hazard Road on Monday.
Gilman, who family say is related to a friend of Tracy Ader’s husband, had been living with the family for several months as they helped him prepare for school and look for work. He often watched the boys and was doing so Friday while Tracy visited Nick in the hospital, where he reportedly was recovering from pancreatitis.
Tracy Ader returned home to check on the boys Friday morning, family said. Nick Ader asked a friend to check on her after several hours went by without hearing from her.
Stephens said detectives may never know a motive for the slayings because everyone involved is dead.
He commended the police response, saying Gilman posed a “grave risk to the public and any officer who encountered him.”
Kadin and Damien Ader were in the third and fifth grades at Willard Elementary School, where a team of 10 counselors gathered Monday to help grieving students and their parents, said Terren Roloff, spokeswoman for Spokane Public Schools. Roloff described the boys as “just fabulous students and really well loved.”
A letter sent to parents by Principal Steve Indgjerd described their deaths as a tragedy “beyond the scope of anything I have ever had to address to parents or students.”
Along with excelling academically, the boys participated in sports and music. Damien was responsible for setting up the school’s computer lab each morning “so that teachers and students had instant access to the programs they needed,” Indgjerd wrote.
Spokane Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart issued a prepared statement Monday offering condolences to the victims and their friends and families.
“We have concentrated law enforcement efforts all weekend to address this crime, and today we have seen significant progress,” Condon said.
Local churches also opened their doors Monday evening for grieving residents.
Police have not said how the boys or their mother died but say it was obvious they could not be resuscitated when officers found them Friday night.
Ader was a 1997 Rogers High School graduate.
Ader divorced the boys’ biological father in 2006. She married Nick Ader a couple of years ago, family said.
Ader’s family said Gilman spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with them at their Spokane Valley home and was great with the boys. They said they never imagined him harming them, and have no idea why he would do so.
Ader’s stepfather, Steve Ponsness, said Monday that he was relieved by Gilman’s death. “I’ll sleep better tonight,” he said.
But Ponsness and his family remain troubled by unanswered questions.
“Especially when someone does themselves in, it’s like great, how do we find out why?” Ponsness said. “But there’s a lot of things in life we ask why and we never get the answers. There’s plans out there, sometimes we just don’t what they are.”
Gilman’s father, Larry Gilman, declined comment Monday.
Dustin Gilman had a 2 1/2-year-old daughter with Brittney Fasino, who obtained a restraining order against him in November 2010.
Fasino said Gilman broke into her apartment twice and damaged the walls and stole her clothes. She said Gilman threatened her over the phone and said he planned to show up at her apartment with a gun.
She said she often slept at her mother’s home because she feared Gilman would break into her apartment to kidnap her daughter.
Fasino said Gilman called in August and November 2010 to say “his final goodbyes” while threatening suicide. She said she’d never seen Gilman with a gun and told court officials he did not have a substance abuse problem.
But other court records show Gilman’s father kicked him out of his North Jefferson Street home after finding cocaine in his room in September 2008.