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

Five dead in apparent murder-suicide in Clark County

Abe Lepak speaks to the media after five people were killed Sunday in an apparent murder-suicide in his Orchards neighborhood, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, as seen Monday morning.  (Amanda Cowan/Columbian)
By Becca Robbins and Jessica Prokop Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A man shot his wife, their two adult daughters and his adult brother before turning the gun on himself, leaving five dead Sunday in an Orchards house near Vancouver, Washington. The apparent murder-suicide shocked neighbors who said the family was friendly but largely kept to themselves.

Authorities have not yet released the identities of the deceased. The apparent shooter had no known criminal history, Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Skidmore said at a press conference Monday. He said deputies had not previously been called to the home at 11505 N.E. 92nd St.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday it will take several days to release identities and causes and manners of death.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen something kind of similar that shocks the conscience like this,” Skidmore said.

Clark County property records list Stuart and Christina Rouse as the owners of the house.

Residents described their neighborhood as quiet.

Some neighbors said they didn’t know the family well, but they seemed like friendly people who would say “hello” in passing.

J.D. Hartman, who moved in down the street about four months ago, said they appeared to be a “typical, normal family.”

Deputies responded at 1:06 p.m. Sunday for a welfare check at the house. The home is near Orchards Highlands Neighborhood Park, north of the Clark Public Utilities Operations Center and Padden Parkway.

A family member in the Seattle area said he received a text message from the apparent shooter that he had harmed others at the residence. He didn’t see the text until about four hours after receiving it. When he couldn’t reach his family, he called emergency dispatch, Skidmore said at the press conference.

Responding deputies tried to contact the residents but were unsuccessful.

Hartman said he saw police cars lining the streets, and he later saw a SWAT team arrive. He heard deputies call over a loud speaker for people to exit the house with nothing in their hands. He said deputies called for them for several hours while more law enforcement arrived throughout the afternoon.

“I had this eerie feeling that something was going on that shouldn’t be going on,” he said.

SWAT members eventually used a battering ram on the front door, which only opened a bit, Hartman said. It looked like the door was barricaded, he said.

Deputies used drones to enter the house, the sheriff’s office said, and found several people who appeared to be dead. SWAT members and tactical medics then entered the home and confirmed that five people were dead.

Neighbor Abe Lepak said investigators were in the area until about 4 a.m. Monday.

No shots were fired when law enforcement was on scene, leading deputies to believe the family was dead before they arrived, Skidmore said. The autopsies will determine time of death.

Nearby neighbors Marshall and Futeen Wills said when they arrived home and later saw the SWAT vehicles parked near their house, they initially thought it was a prank and someone had falsely called the police on their neighbors. Once officers began blocking off the street with crime scene tape, the couple said they knew the situation was serious.

They said they wouldn’t be surprised if other neighbors heard the gunshots but didn’t call 911. They noted the Vancouver Trap and Gun Club – about a mile away – is open Sunday morning, and it’s common for residents to hear gunshots around that time.

The Wills, who have lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, called the shooting “out of the blue.” They said the family had also lived there for decades and were friendly but mostly kept to themselves.

To Hartman, Sunday’s shooting highlights the need for more mental health resources in the community, especially around this time of year. He said it’s sad it takes a tragedy like this for some to realize the importance of seeking help.

Local law enforcement investigated a murder-suicide and an attempted murder-suicide in early December last year.

Skidmore said the sheriff’s office’s peer support team will reach out to the deputies who responded to this incident.

“You never think it’s going to happen right next to you,” Hartman said.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit is continuing to investigate.