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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Suspect in Moscow slayings arrested after high-speed chase

Three people were killed and another critically injured Saturday when a man shot them in three separate incidents in Moscow, Idaho.

Police later arrested John Lee, 29, after a 24-mile police chase that topped 100 mph – at times in dense fog. Moscow police Chief David Duke said police are still trying to determine a motive, but among the victims were Lee’s adoptive mother and his landlord.

Those who died were Moscow businessman David Trail, 76, Arby’s restaurant manager Belinda Niebuhr, 47, and the suspect’s adoptive mother, Terri Grzebielski, 61. Injured was Seattle resident Michael Chin, 39.

Chin called 911 at 2:31 p.m. from an office at an apartment building at 303 E. Third St., said Moscow police Chief David Duke. The office is used by the apartments and by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. Chin reported that he had just been shot and provided a description of the assailant.

When police arrived, they found that Trail also had been shot in the office. Trail was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital and pronounced dead, Moscow police said in a news release. Chin was transported to Gritman Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

Lee lives at the apartment building and Trail was his landlord, Duke said.

At 2:37 p.m., police received a call about a shooting at Arby’s, 150 Peterson Drive, Duke said.

The shooter entered the restaurant, asked to see the manager and shot her. The manager, Niebuhr, tried to escape by jumping out the drive-thru window as Lee continued firing, Duke said.

Niebuhr, a mother and grandmother, was pronounced dead at Gritman Medical Center. Witnesses of both shootings described the same man, Duke said.

After Lee was arrested, police checked a home in the 400 block of Veatch Street where Lee’s adoptive parents live and found Grzebielski dead at about 4:45 p.m. Duke said Grzebielski’s husband was not at home when they arrived on scene. He told police after they tracked him down that he last saw his wife at about 2 p.m.

After the shooter fled Arby’s, Duke said, police notified area law enforcement about the suspect’s car.

A Pullman police officer spotted it on state Highway 270 just entering city limits, said Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers. The driver sped away, starting a high-speed chase that at times exceeded 100 mph through dense fog, Myers said. Whitman County deputies and Washington State Patrol troopers joined the pursuit. Troopers and Colfax police blocked side streets as the chase went through Colfax.

Lee lost control of the 2009 Honda Fit on state Highway 195 just south of Steptoe, Washington, Myers said. The car rolled, but he suffered only minor injuries and did not fight arrest after the crash. He was first taken to Whitman Hospital and Medical Center in Colfax, Pullman police said in a news release. He later was booked into the Whitman County Jail on a charge of eluding police.

According to her Facebook page, Niebuhr took pride in her kids, home, garden and work. She was named the general manager of the restaurant last summer.

Grzebielski was a physician’s assistant who worked at Moscow Family Medicine’s University of Idaho Student Health clinic. In a profile page on the medical group’s website, Grzebielski lists biking, kayaking and hiking among her interests. She attended the University of North Dakota and the University of Nebraska.

Duke said Moscow police are being assisted by the Latah County Sheriff’s Office and the Idaho State Police to help process the three homicide scenes. They were waiting Saturday evening for a warrant to search Lee’s apartment.

Saturday was the deadliest day of violence in Moscow since 2007, when Jason Hamilton went on a shooting spree. He first killed his wife, Crystal Hamilton, then opened fire on the Latah County Courthouse and killed Moscow police Officer Lee Newbill and church caretaker Paul Bauer before killing himself.

Duke was the assistant chief of the force at the time.

“We’ve had this before,” Duke said Saturday night.

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