TACOMA – Christine Blais was 27, the working mother of an 8-year-old girl, when she vanished in 1988 after working the late shift at the Ak-Wa Co. shipbuilding plant on the Tideflats.
On Friday, Pierce County prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against the co-worker long suspected of killing her: Daniel R. Maples, now 47 and a Level 3 sex offender.
“There is some additional evidence now that there wasn’t before,” chief criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jerry Costello said Friday.
“The police have continued to investigate it over the years.”
He declined to elaborate. Maples is in King County Jail on charges of failing to register as a sex offender.
A Pierce County warrant has been issued for his arrest, and he will be transferred here when the King County case is resolved, Costello said.
Blais was last seen at about 4 a.m., when her shift ended on Oct. 8, 1988.
Her family didn’t realize she was missing until the next day, when her daughter came home from Sunday school to find her gone.
Relatives were concerned, saying Blais was a devoted parent who rarely went out.
A few weeks later, her car was found in the parking lot of a Tacoma motel.
On Jan. 7, 1989, her skull and other remains were discovered near a Tacoma home where Maples had lived in the years before her disappearance.
The death was ruled a homicide and Tacoma police detectives arrested Maples within days — after they found a watch believed to be his near the skeletal remains.
Maples’ attorneys said he was innocent, and he was released after less than a week in custody.
Prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to support a charge.
In the years since, Tacoma police investigators have continued to investigate and interview witnesses in the case, Costello said.
“We believe the evidence will support a guilty verdict,” he said.
“We think that Christine Blais and her family deserve a day in court, and that’s what we are after.”
According to court documents filed Friday, Maples worked with Blais that last night, and helped her load empty wooden spools into her car.
Blais then gave Maples a ride.
“There are no persons known to investigators who saw Christine Blais alive after this point in time,” the documents say.
Maples told police and others that Blais dropped him off near the Interstate 5 interchange in Fife, and he walked home. His accounts of why she left him there have been inconsistent.
When detectives asked Maples about a bruise on his neck, he said he had walked into a piece of steel on a ship.
When Blais’ remains were found, investigators found two pieces of rope nearby — one with hairs on it that were “microscopically indistinguishable” from hers.
There also were hairs on the watch that were found to be “microscopically consistent” with Blais’ hair, court documents state.
Prosecutors say Maples wore a watch identical to the one found near the remains.
A co-worker and Maples’ ex-wife say he stopped wearing the watch about the time Blais disappeared, court records say.
The former wife also told investigators that Maples routinely carried a folding knife but that it disappeared in October 1988.
And she recalled seeing blood on Maples’ trousers and a fresh injury on his hand when he got home the morning of Oct. 8, 1988, according to court documents.
Maples was convicted in 1993 of first-degree child molestation and indecent exposure after sexually assaulting a 5-year-old relative.
He also has convictions for robbery, possession of stolen property and drugs.
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