Preston Kahanu was asleep when Dustin Gilman called him that Friday morning, looking to hang out and play video games.
Gilman stopped by Kahanu’s home in north Spokane about 10:45 a.m. but left abruptly after a couple of hours.
Kahanu, 25, now realizes he and his girlfriend, Saundra Warrington, 20, might have been the last to see the suspected triple killer alive. It was Feb. 10 and police believe Gilman, a 22-year-old Spokane native, had strangled Tracy A. Ader, 32, and her two sons earlier that day. They say he shot himself to death that evening in a wooded area in north Spokane County.
“There’s a lot of unknowns here,” Jeff Barrington, the lead detective on the case for the Spokane Police Department, said Tuesday. “We’re still investigating the whole thing.”
Among the questions: What happened to the firearms discovered missing from the Ader home at 4411 N. Whitehouse St. after the murders? Also, a friend said Gilman had just cashed a paycheck from his new job at Longhorn Barbecue in Spokane Valley. But Barrington said Gilman had “very little” cash on him when a police dog led investigators to his body Feb. 13. Did something happen to the money?
Though he wouldn’t say why, Barrington said he’s “pretty confident” no one helped Gilman travel to the area where he killed himself, which is located near the Wandermere Bridge on Hazard Road.
As police continue their investigation, Gilman’s friends and family say they remain baffled why a young man, though troubled, would murder a family who’d done so much for him the last few months.
Kahanu and Warrington, both of whom have talked to police, say they’re shocked at the allegations and troubled to know that Gilman was at their home just hours after police believe he committed the brutal crimes.
They said they have no idea what could have triggered Gilman, who Kahanu said had described the boys, 8-year-old Kadin and 10-year-old Damien, as his nephews, to kill three people and say he gave no indication that he’d done something so brutal when he sat in their living room that morning.
Gilman’s father, Larry Gilman, told The Spokesman-Review he tried to get his son help since he was a young boy. The boy had emotional problems and got into trouble. Larry Gilman signed his parental rights over to the state of Washington when Dustin was 10 or 11 in hopes of getting him intensive counseling, he said.
Nothing seemed to help.
“It was just an endless battle,” Larry Gilman said. “The thing I was scared of the most was losing my son to suicide. It eventually ended up that way.” Gilman’s mother, Tanya Scharff, of Davenport, declined to comment.
Gilman spoke with his son about 6 p.m. Feb. 10. Dustin Gilman told his dad in a phone call about 6 p.m. Feb. 10 that he’d blacked out drunk and woken surrounded by dead bodies, and said he was not going back to jail. Larry Gilman said he heard two distant gunshots, then one up close. The phone then went dead.
Kahanu and Warrington learned of the murders when a friend called them Feb. 11 and said Dustin “was all over the news for a triple homicide,” Warrington said. Warrington called Crime Check and a detective spoke with the couple at their home that afternoon, then again the next day.
Kahanu and Warrington say Gilman arrived at their home about 10:48 a.m. driving a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder. He left after about an hour and said he needed to return the car to his “brother,” who they later learned was Nick Ader, Kahanu said. “We didn’t even know what (Ader’s) name was until we saw the news,” Kahanu said.
Kahanu’s home is just blocks from where police recovered the Pathfinder, which belonged to the Aders, at Monroe Street and Wellesley Avenue, and Gilman returned to the home in the 4100 block of North Howard Street about 20 minutes later, on foot.
Kahanu said Gilman seemed happy when he arrived, and told his friend he’d been at a strip club with Nick Ader. Kahanu later found out Ader was actually in the hospital. Kahanu also said Gilman told him he’d been up all night high on cocaine.
Kahanu said Gilman was often drunk when he came to his home and sometimes brought over marijuana that he said Nick Ader grew in his basement. Detectives found marijuana plants in the basement when investigating the murders; Ader’s family said Nick Ader has a medical marijuana prescription. He was hospitalized with pancreatitis when his family was killed but has been released and has declined to speak with reporters as the investigation continues.
Kahanu also said Gilman showed him a .380 caliber pistol he said belonged to his brother, which Kahanu took to mean Ader.
“He was just showing it off,” Kahanu said.
Warrington said she always thought “there was something off” about Gilman.
But Gilman seemed to love children. “That’s all he really talked to me about was his (own) kids,” said Warrington, who has a 10-week-old son, Mason, with Kahanu.
Gilman has a 2-and-half-year-old daughter and court records show Gilman’s girlfriend, Tiffany King, told police she’s newly pregnant with his baby.
Looking back on his final visit with Gilman, Kahanu said in an interview at his home that Gilman seemed “more paranoid than usual.” Though he laughed and seemed relaxed as the two played Call of Duty: Black Ops, a violent war-themed video game, he paused the game abruptly and said he had to leave. He gave no explanation, Kahanu said.
Nikki Russell-Weisz said she spoke with Gilman that night when he called asking for a ride. He said he was in Mead, had a lot of money and wanted to go to the bars downtown. Russell-Weisz said she met Gilman a couple years ago and sometimes spent time with him at downtown bars. He was outgoing and friendly, polite to women and accepting of gay rights, she said.
“He would come over to my friends’ house and hang out with their kids and be like the coolest guy,” she said. “I’ve never seen him be disrespectful to anyone.”
But Russell-Weisz, who has spoken with police, said she was reluctant to spend time with Gilman because he was beginning to surround himself with people she described as “gang-type people.”
“That’s who he was partying with that whole week before that,” she said.
She believed he was with them when he called her that day, so she declined to pick him up.
She later found out from police that Gilman had called her from one of his victims’ cellphones.
“All of his friends are just shocked,” she said.