Authorities started to unfold their case Thursday against Darryl Kuehl, the man accused of killing a retired school teacher and hiding the body for a year.
Kuehl, 45, sat quietly in court, facing a first degree murder charge as a string of witnesses identified him as a handyman who worked for Paul Gruber.
Gruber, 53, was last seen at his Bonner County home in January 1994. Authorities searched for him for a year before finding his decomposed body wrapped in a waterbed mattress and buried under his own home.
Prosecutor Scott James said Kuehl shot Gruber three to four times with a .22-caliber pistol in the breezeway of Gruber’s home.
Gruber’s body was then buried and authorities said Kuehl impersonated Gruber, forged checks and even sent birthday cards to his family members.
Gruber’s daughter, Shellie Kepley, reported her father missing in 1994 after she received a forged birthday card for her son.
“The handwriting wasn’t right, the tone, the signature,” Kepley said while testifying. “I knew something wasn’t right.”
Three months ago authorities finally pieced together enough evidence and arrested Kuehl in Gig Harbor, Wash., for the murder. Police recovered two .22-caliber pistols, which had silencers mounted on them, from Kuehl. They also confiscated some of Gruber’s property that Kuehl had in his possession.
And while Kuehl was waiting to be extradited from Washington to Idaho, authorities said he hatched another murder plot. This time it was to kill three Bonner County detectives.
“I’m not sure what his motive was other than to try and escape while we moved him, but he wanted us dead,” said Bonner County Detective John Valdez.
Tacoma authorities uncovered the murder plot after talking to one of Kuehl’s cellmates. They said Kuehl tried to pay another inmate $15,000 to arrange the murder of three detectives. The officers were to be killed when Kuehl was being transported, so he could escape, Valdez said.
When Kuehl failed to come up with the cash, he tried to pay an inmate to find a transient who would confess to killing Gruber. Kuehl had his wife meet a man at her home and pay him $1,000 and give him title to two cars.
Undercover officers went to the meeting and confiscated the cash and car titles. Kuehl’s wife, Kristine, was not arrested, but Kuehl could now face an attempted murder charge, Valdez said.
Kuehl has already been charged with grand theft and forgery. He had Gruber’s pickup and ski boat and wrote more than $1,000 worth of checks on Gruber’s account.
The preliminary hearing for Kuehl will continue today.