The day his wife failed to come home from jogging with her dog, Larry Underdahl went looking for her on the Cedar River Trail where she liked to run.
One of the people he questioned was a “big hulky guy” with long hair and a beard.
“I saw a man with a dog,” the stranger told him.
Underdahl later told police about the man, who he said “looked weird and out of place.”
Police, who found Alice Underdahl’s body early the next day in underbrush along the trail, believe her husband may have met her killer.
The description fits Gary Wayne Puckett, 38, of Kent, who killed himself about a week later in North Dakota when police stopped him for questioning in a brutal attack on a woman at a highway rest stop. The woman, whose throat was slashed, was able to write down his Washington state license number and describe the brown van he was driving.
At the time Larry Underdahl ran into the husky long-haired man on Sept. 23, he was not overly concerned about his wife, who was overdue from her run with the family’s golden retriever, Lucy.
“I had no dark thoughts for some time,” he told the South County Journal.
About 7 p.m., after he had found the dog, Underdahl became worried and called police. He and the couple’s teenage daughter provided enough details for a police drawing of Puckett. Others on the trail confirmed the description.
DNA tests of evidence from the Underdahl death scene that might confirm Puckett’s involvement still are not back from the lab, King County police spokeswoman Joanne Elledge said Monday. Authorities are not saying whether Alice Underdahl was raped. Alice Underdahl, 52, was a United Airlines flight attendant.
Puckett is also a suspect in the July rape-slaying of Denise Elaine Simon of Kent, Kent police Detective Don Winters said Monday.
Convicted in 1980 of raping an 86-year-old woman - he choked her unconscious and stole a ring from her finger - Puckett was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1987 but arrested on a parole violation in 1988 and reincarcerated until spring 1995. The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board did not immediately return a call seeking to determine the nature of the parole violation.
While in prison, he underwent sex-offender treatment at the Twin Rivers Correctional Center and did well. But the techniques he learned for controlling his behavior need constant attention.
“Unless you are vigilant, there is a tendency to fall back,” said Anna Aylward, who supervises the mental-health unit at Twin Rivers.
Such offenders have a “higher probability of reoffending because of past history,” she said, though “it’s usually five or seven years out that will see these behaviors.”
That doesn’t help Alice Underdahl’s grieving family and friends.
“I don’t care what caused him to do it,” Larry Underdahl said. “It was manifested before.”
He added: “My feeling is there is an element that should be incarcerated.”
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