It didn’t seem to be about money or settling an old score.
Investigators believe 76-year-old Miriam “Micky” Waltch was shot and killed Sunday at her rural Benewah County home simply because her home was closest to the ditch where Lawrence E. Banderob’s vehicle became stuck.
Banderob and at least one other person were passing Waltch’s home Sunday afternoon when they drove off Goosehaven Road, County Prosecutor Doug Payne said. They were stuck, and the closest car was Waltch’s 1988 Hyundai Excel, Payne said.
It was this random chance that investigators think led Banderob onto Waltch’s fenced property, where he is accused of setting her home on fire and fatally shooting Waltch in the head.
“I don’t know if motive is the right word … but (Banderob) appeared to be seeking a vehicle,” Payne said.
Banderob, who lives in a rural area along the Benewah and Kootenai county lines, was arrested Tuesday. Wednesday, he was charged with first-degree arson and first-degree murder. He appeared before 1st District Magistrate Judge Patrick McFadden, who ordered Banderob held without bail.
Under Idaho law, first-degree murder cases are presumed to carry the death penalty unless otherwise specified by the prosecutor.
Waltch, who lived with her two cats and a dog, was shot twice and likely died from a wound to the head, according to a preliminary coroner’s report. Her body was discovered Sunday inside her fire-gutted home in an isolated area north of St. Maries.
The fire is believed to have been set in the living room at the front of the house. Waltch was discovered on the floor of her computer room. A neighbor described hearing an explosion and seeing smoke coming from Waltch’s manufactured home.
Less than 48 hours after her body was discovered, law officers had detained Banderob for questioning, Payne said. He was arrested later in the day and remains in the county jail.
Payne said one or more people were with Banderob in the vehicle when it became stuck. But Payne would not release further details about the person or people accompanying Banderob, only saying additional arrest warrants have been issued.
“The question is whether the other person is a willing participant,” he said.
Payne would not say if Banderob has a criminal record, but he did say, “I’ve dealt with him in the past.”
Attorney Tim Gresback of Moscow, Idaho, has been appointed Banderob’s lead defense counsel. State law requires defense attorneys in capital cases to have experience handling murder cases. Gresback has been involved in a variety of high-profile murder cases, including the 2004 shooting of a University of Idaho football player.
“I’m ready,” Gresback said. “I look forward to protecting Mr. Banderob’s constitutional rights.”