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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Benewah woman shot, house torched

A suspect was arrested Tuesday in the death of a 76-year-old Benewah County woman whose body was found in her burning home Sunday on Goosehaven Road.

Sheriff Robert Kirts also said in a news release that the fire was arson, and that Miriam “Micky” Waltch had been shot twice. Waltch’s 1988 Hyundai Excel was recovered, Kirts said, but the sheriff’s office declined to identify the suspect or release additional information late Tuesday.

Earlier speculation among neighbors that Waltch – along with her dog – had been killed had residents of the quiet area north of St. Maries on edge. People who typically leave their doors unlocked were locking up, and some were hesitant to let children play outside alone, said Marsha Habberstad.

“It really makes you think,” said Habberstad, who has lived on Goosehaven Road with her husband, Gary, since 1969. “It was like she didn’t have an enemy in the world.” Neighbors said Waltch doted on her pets and loved to garden.

Kirts said the fire apparently started in the living room at the front of the house, while Waltch was found in her computer room.

Habberstad said a neighbor was collecting deer antlers on a ridge overlooking the home when he heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from Waltch’s manufactured house. She said he got his uncle and the two raced to Waltch’s house and tried to douse the fire with a garden hose.

When the fire became too large, they went to another neighbor’s house to call 911, Habberstad said. She said the back door to Waltch’s home apparently had been kicked in.

TV and electronics repairman Rick Renfrow checked on Waltch occasionally and spoke with her by phone once or twice a week. He helped her when she bought a DVD player and often answered questions about technical problems.

Renfrow said Waltch moved to the area in the mid-‘90s and lived quietly. She previously resided in Post Falls and California.

“Her whole life was dogs and cats,” Renfrow said. “She always bought the best food she could for them.”

Waltch also was proud of her fruit trees, tomato plants and flowers, he said.

The two spoke Friday. Renfrow recalls Waltch talking about her deep love for her dog and cats – another dog had died recently.

Those who knew Waltch said she lived a modest lifestyle. According to records of the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals, she once contested the county’s valuation of the 5.5 acres where she lived.

The back deck of her home overlooks a marsh – property that Waltch told the tax commission was too wet to build on and therefore had no value. She said she had a reverse mortgage and didn’t intend to sell the land.

Habberstad said she and her husband would ride horses past Waltch’s home and they’d chat at the fence. Waltch had a New York accent, she said.

Waltch had created a home page online and had profiles on several Web sites and forums, including one at The profile there said she was retired and her interests were “staying alive.”

She wrote a letter to the Village Voice in 1999 reminiscing about the times her father took her and her brother to baseball games at Yankee Stadium. According to Waltch’s profile on other Web sites, she enjoyed reading, crocheting, gardening and watching TV.

On one page she mentioned her son and daughter.

Renfrow learned of Waltch’s death Monday, the same day he planned to call her.

“It’s terrible. I just don’t understand why they’d do that. She just lived a pretty quiet life,” Renfrow said. “I just find it hard to believe why they picked her.”