The Boat at the Bottom of Lake Washington

Date Published 07.06.11
One of the most fascinating things about stumbling across an incomplete crime story is imagining what important information the missing puzzle pieces might contain.  A recent story out of Seattle is rich with possibilities in this way.

Like most complex mysteries time is twisty and locations are scattered, but a good place to start is the night of March 26, 2010, in the driveway of a beautiful home on Lake Washington.

 



It was around 10:30 p.m. when Dr. Craig McAllister, an orthopedic surgeon, drove up to his house with his 20-year-old son, who was visiting from college.  A pile of bark mulch that had been delivered earlier that day blocked the driveway, so McAllister parked on the street. 

As McAllister and his son neared the house, a man wearing a ski mask and dressed all in black rose from behind the pile of mulch. 

“Just relax,” the man said.  He indicated in a calm voice that he had a gun and that if they cooperated, no one would get hurt. 

A series of quick calculations ran through McAllister’s head:  This seems like a home burglary.  But a run-of-the-mill burglar would bolt when the homeowners returned.  This guy isn’t running.  He wants to get inside the house.  My wife and 13-year-old daughter are in there.

McAllister lunged at the stranger, tackling him to the ground.  The two fought, the intruder repeatedly zapping McAllister with a stun gun.  McAllister was getting the upper hand when a second man, also in a ski mask and dressed in black, suddenly emerged from the side of the house and pistol-whipped him from behind.

McAllister collapsed, bleeding behind his left ear.  He was alone; his son had run to neighbors to call 911.  The pair of intruders zeroed in on the house and began furiously kicking in the front door.  McAllister's wife, confused about the noise, opened the door, but upon seeing a ski-masked man in black she quickly dead bolted it and called police.

By the time the police arrived, the two attackers were gone.

Who were the men?  If they were burglars, why had they targeted a house with few escape routes and a security system?

McAllister had torn one of the men’s ski masks off in the struggle, and DNA from the mask would ultimately reveal his identity.  Later, evidence pulled from the cold waters of Lake Washington would help identify his partner.  The men’s identities confirmed McAllister’s suspicions that this wasn’t a regular home invasion --- there was something unusual, something off, about this crime, the true motive of which remains unknown.

But before we pull the men’s masks off, let’s go back ten years, to Jan. 4, 2001. 

That’s the afternoon that Mike Emert, 40, a Seattle-area real estate agent, was meeting a prospective client.  Emert had told his wife a bit about the client --- his name was Steven, he was in his 50s, and he limped and walked with a cane.  Steven told Emert he was relocating from Northern California, and he was interested in seeing one particular house --- it was on a large private lot, set back from the street and other houses.

Emert and Steven agreed to first meet up at a local shopping center, and then together go over and see the house.

The homeowner returned around lunchtime to find her front door ajar; she heard the ominous sound of water running.  Upstairs a trail of blood led to the bathroom.  The sink faucet was on. Emert’s body lay slumped across the bathtub, the showerhead running, probably in an attempt to erase trace evidence.  He’d been stabbed 19 times.

The Emert case was a strange one from the get go.  The murder took planning, and experience.  Investigators believed the house was chosen because it was isolated.  “Steven,” whoever he was, had probably used the limp and cane as a ruse, especially as the scene suggested Emert had first been attacked in an upstairs bedroom, and then dragged into the bathroom.  Emert was nearly six feet tall, and strong.

Perhaps the cane was even jerry-rigged to disguise the murder weapon.

The murder felt professional and methodical, but the problem was Mike Emert was a wholly unlikely victim.  He was unassuming.  Clean.  Investigators dug deep, they interviewed hundreds of people, but nothing hinky turned up at all.

They did have one trick up their sleeve, which they kept secret.  Traces of DNA were found under Emert’s fingernails, and a drop of blood believed to be from the killer was discovered in Emert’s abandoned Cadillac Escalade.  They ran the DNA, but didn’t get a hit. 

Unsolved Mysteries eventually profiled the story.  Online sleuthers puzzled over the strange details.  It became a cold case, occasionally mentioned in the media on the anniversary of the crime.

Fast forward to that March night last year, and the beautiful home on Lake Washington.  The pair of intruders had disappeared, but one left his ski mask behind.  Tests run on DNA from the mask matched a convicted felon named John Alan Bradshaw.

Bradshaw was a curious suspect.  He was 65, unusual for a home invasion burglar.  And his record was for a different sort of crime --- Bradshaw had spent time in a federal prison on arson and federal money laundering charges.


John Bradshaw

Investigators now had a name, but Bradshaw was nowhere to be found.  At this point they had a pretty good idea of the identity of Bradshaw’s partner.  The wife of an associate of Bradshaw’s had filed a missing-person report a week after the home invasion.

The missing man’s name was Gary Krueger.  Krueger, 62, was a former Seattle police officer.  As a street cop he’d been involved in two high-profile police brutality incidents, one a fatality in which Krueger shot a suspect from the front seat of his patrol car.  Krueger retired from the police force in 1980, and promptly took up bank robbery.  He was convicted multiple times and was in and out of jail. 


Gary Krueger

Bradshaw and Krueger looked good for the home invasion, but where were they?

In September, Krueger’s body was found floating in Lake Washington. 

Near his body, nose down at the bottom of the lake, was a sunken 9-foot aluminum skiff that had been stolen from the McAllister’s neighbors the night of the crime.

Inside the boat was a duffel bag with plastic hand restraints, duct tape, and extra ammo.

What had these two men in their 60s been planning to do to the McAllister family?

One clue that the motive was bigger than mere burglary was revealed when Krueger’s DNA was entered into the system. 

There was a match --- to the Mike Emert case.

Gary Krueger, it seems, was the mysterious “Steven” who walked with a limp, used a cane, and stabbed realtor Emert to death in an isolated house for sale.  Investigators now believe he’s also responsible for at least two other murders.  Krueger wasn’t just a shady cop turned bank robber. 

Apparently he was also a hit man.

Real estate seems to be the connective tissue in many of the cases.  After he retired from the police force, Krueger worked for a short while as a real estate agent.  Emert was a realtor.  One of Krueger's other alleged victims, Jim Barry, who was stabbed to death in his office in 1984, was a real estate attorney.

It’s interesting that Bradshaw, Krueger’s partner, had served time for arson and money laundering.  That suggests some sort of possible property insurance racket.  That might have been how the two men teamed up.

It's unclear whether or not Bradshaw was hiring Krueger, or they were equals working for some bigger entity.  The two men clearly kept criminally busy when they were out of jail.  I’m sure more cases will be connected to them. 

One that would be interesting to look into is the murder of Thomas C. Wales, an assistant United States Attorney in Seattle.  Wales was shot to death on Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat typing at his computer in his home office.

It was in 2001 that Bradshaw pleaded guilty to a federal money-laundering charge and was sentenced to eight years in prison.  Wales specialized in federal fraud cases, which included money laundering.

Gary Krueger's body was recovered in Lake Washington; John Bradshaw's was not.  Some investigators believe he drowned with Krueger that night.  The McAllister family, still reeling from the experience, isn't so sure.  The neighbor whose boat was stolen says he saw only one set of shoeprints next to the dock.

The McAllisters recently hired sonar body recovery specialists to find out if Bradshaw is somewhere in the lake.

They came up empty.

 

Seattle Times

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