The Hunter

Date Published 08.20.06
Some were sleeping. A few slept to the sound of ocean waves, others to crickets in the woods. Most were lovers, either married or in a long-term relationship. One pair was mother and daughter. All were shot in the head.

They were murdered in the west and northwest, from northern Arizona to Vancouver Island, over the last thirty years. The manner of death is similar, but it’s what they celebrated in life that really connects the victims: they loved the outdoors, from redwood grove to desert, granite cliff to driftwood beach. They were comfortable in the natural world and tread lightly there. If they thought about danger in the great outdoors it was from a Grizzly bear, or a sudden fall, not a psychopath behind the barrel of a gun. For people who sought peace in nature, theirs was a particularly manmade and violent end.



The First Shots

The network of islands, beaches and old-growth forests that make up Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” It’s raw terrain. The evergreen-choked shoreline buffets wind gusts and ten-foot seas. By the summer of 1972 a large number of Vietnam War draft evaders had settled on the beaches there. A live-off-the-land ethos prevailed.

Leif Carlsson and Ann Durant weren't part of that scene. They were just a young couple in love who wanted to camp out under the stars. On the evening of June 22, 1972, they set up camp near Tofino, a sparsely populated, end of the road outpost.


The Victims

Before they went to bed, the couple bumped into Joseph Henry Burgess, a Vietnam War draft dodger who lived along the beaches of Vancouver Island. Despite the hippie facade, the 25-year-old Burgess was anything but laid-back. Police say the New Jersey-born Burgess was a religious fanatic. He quoted scripture and ended his phrases with "Amen." The counterculture crowd accepted him, but it seems their carefree ways enraged him.



Joseph Burgess

Some unsubstantiated reports say Carlsson and Durrant were Christians; whether or not the couple discussed religion with Burgess is not known. What is known is that Burgess learned the unmarried couple were cohabitating out of wedlock. Police say Burgess hid in the bushes nearby and waited until the couple fell asleep. When they did, Burgess crept up to them and shot them in the head, point blank, with a .22 caliber rifle. Why? Burgess believed premarital sex was wrong.


Crime scene

Burgess eluded capture, and has been one of Canada's most wanted fugitives for the last 34 years. Police speculate he may have stayed in the Pacific Northwest.

Connections?

Five years later, in June 1977, Eric Goldstrand and his girlfriend Lliana Adank, both 16, attended a North Eugene High School senior gathering at Broken Bowl Picnic Grounds at Fall Creek in Lane County, Oregon. It was just days until graduation, and the couple, described as handsome and popular students, decided to stay after the picnic and do some fishing. Sheriff's deputies found the two shot to death early the next morning. Adank had been sexually assaulted.

Ted Outcalt, Eric's stepfather, wrote in an email that for several years they thought they had a good suspect, but DNA ultimately excluded him. "As far as Eric's murder being possibly tied to other murders in the northwest it is completely possible," Outcalt wrote in an email to True Crime Diary. "The reason that I say this is that the nature of the murders, the complete cold blooded way that they were committed and the time that obviously had to have been spent committing the murders would point toward a serial type killer."

Indeed, experts say that it's rare for a person to randomly kill victims without having done it before or without ever doing it again. And all indications are that the murders of Eric and Lliana were random. "It was assumed that they were happened upon, considering that a fishing pole and other items were beside the picnic table in the spot that they were in," Outcalt wrote.

More Deaths

Fast forward to another June, this time 1988. A couple visiting Mount Shasta, California was reported missing by family members. The couple, 44-year-old Jerry Middleton and his new wife, 35-year-old Pamela, had recently acquired a pickup truck and it was initially assumed the couple had been in an accident. The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department launched a massive search but could find no trace of them.

Six months later law enforcement officials discovered Jerry and Pamela Middleton in a remote area near Lake of the Woods, some 80 miles away and across the state line in Oregon. Their naked bodies were found in the bed of their truck. They were embracing. Both of them had been shot through the mouth and were found with their hands on a .25 caliber pistol.

The Klamath County Sheriff's Department ruled the deaths a double suicide. But their families firmly rejected the suicide theory, insisting the couple had recently wed and were both very happy. Despite the family's protests, Klamath County closed the case.

Just two months later, on August 22, 1988, on the other side of the Klamath National Forest from Mount Shasta, yet another couple was found shot to death in a remote campground. Douglas Anderson, 26, and his wife Rozina, 31, were discovered in their van parked near Mill Creek inside Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, about five miles south of Crescent City, California. Derek Moore of The Press Democrat quotes a source in the local sheriff's department as saying they never established a motive for the murders. The case is still open.

Present Day

Lisa Gurrieri, 19, and Brandon Rumbaugh, 20, met in a Scottsdale nightclub in 2002 and immediatelly fell in love. On Friday, October 18, 2003, the attractive couple decided to return to the spot of their first date: a desert camping area near Bumble Bee, Arizona, one hour north of Scottsdale. The plan was to park their pick-up truck for the night, unfold sleeping bags in the truck's bed, and reminisce about their romance on their first year anniversary. When they didn't return as planned on Sunday, friends went looking for them. They found the couple in the back of the pick-up, still lying in their sleeping bags. They had been shot several times in the head.

"We believe that it was a random act," said Lt. Atene Francis of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office to CNN. The case remains unsolved.


Lisa Gurrieri and Brandon Rumbaugh

That was 2003. For the next three years, every summer, eerily similar slayings occurred.

Jason Allen and Lindsay Cutshall, two Christian camp counselors who planned to be married, were shot in in their sleeping bags as they camped on a beach just north of Jenner, California. Their bodies were found Aug. 18, 2004.

For the first time police publicly hinted that some of the shooting homicides of couples camping in the west and northwest might be related. It was reported that investigators working the Cutshall and Allen case were talking to Siskiyou County investigators (Jerry and Pamela Middleton), Del Norte County investigators (Douglas and Rozina Anderson), and Yavapai County investigators (Lisa Gurrieri and Brandon Rumbaugh). Most significantly, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department released information about fugitive Joseph Henry Burgess in relation to the Cutshall and Allen case. Despite a gap of 32 years, the two cases shared chilling similarities. Remote beach, campers, unmarried couple, rifle shots to the head, not to mention the religious element. It's also interesting to note how much the young Burgess looked like victim Jason Allen.


Joseph Burgess


Jason Allen

Moving North Again

On July 1, 2005, Lane County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to the report of deceased subjects off a rural spur road in Willamette National Forest, south of the town of Oakridge, Oregon. Stevan Haugen, 54, and Jeanette Bauman, 56, had been shot to death, along with Haugen's dog, Caesar. Police believe whoever shot the couple also took Haugen's license plates and possibly some fishing items. Reports indicate police are stumped for a motive, as Haugen and Bauman are universally described as wonderful people with no known enemies. Another random attack on campers in a remote campground using a high-powered rifle or pistol?

"I do feel that whoever did this has a past of violent crimes," Dan Bauman, Jeanette's son, wrote True Crime Diary in an email. "I do not know what the average for rural murders are. But, growing up in a rural area I never saw crimes like these that are being done in the Northwest. The high amount of vicious murders and attacks in the smaller Oregon and Washington communities is disturbing."

The disturbing trend continues. Last month, on July 11, a school librarian and her environmentalist daughter decided to take a day hike in the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, about an hour northeast of Seattle. Mary Cooper, 56, and Susanna Stodden, 27, were last seen around 10 a.m. as they prepared to hike the Pinnacle Lake trail. Four and a half hours later, fellow hikers stumbled upon the women's bodies. They were dead, the victims of brutal gunshot wounds.

Despite an intense investigation by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Department and a report of "persons of interest," no new developments have been reported in recent weeks.


Mary Cooper and Susanna Stodden

Suspects

Did Joseph Henry Burgess disappear into the wilderness and embark on a thirty-year murder spree? It’s unlikely he’s the single perpetrator of all the homicides. But we know that enough similarities exist between cases that police are talking to each other behind the scenes. The cases share several traits: random motive, attacks on couples, remote outdoor locations, use of a gun. Experts say it's extremely rare for a person to randomly kill a victim wtihout having done it before or without ever doing it again.

If it’s not Burgess, the suspect is likely someone very much like him. Burgess was an angry loner who lived an itinerant outdoor lifestyle. It's interesting to note that police believe fishing equipment was stolen from victims Haugen and Bauman - property that relates more to outdoor survival rather than resale value.

One intriguing possibility for the last several homicides lies in the state of Arizona. Specifically, the morning of April 10, 2001, when a Scottsdale, Arizona home exploded and the bodies of a woman and two young children were discovered inside the burned house. The victims were soon identified as Mary Fisher, 38, and her two children, Brittney, 12, and Bobby Jr., 10. Autopsies showed they hadn’t died in the fire, but were murdered sometime earlier. Mary had been shot in the head, and the children’s throats had been slit.


Robert Fisher

Suspicion quickly fell on husband and father Robert Fisher, 45, who was missing. Ten days after the fire, investigators found Mary Fisher’s SUV outside the Tonto National Forest, 100 miles north of Scottsdale. Despite a massive search, the only thing recovered was the family dog. Robert Fisher had disappeared into the nearly three million acres of forest.

Fisher is an avid outdoorsman, hunter and fisherman, as reported on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive website. He is thought to be in possession of a high-powered rifle. America's Most Wanted reports that Fisher was known to smear blood all over his body while hunting. Other reports indicate he took a water purifer with him, a clue he could have been planning a long stay in the outdoors.

Where is Robert Fisher?

"My gut feeling is he's out there, he's alive, and he's just avoiding public contact," FBI Special Agent Bob Caldwell said to The Arizona Republic.

Bumble Bee, Arizona, the site of Lisa Gurrieri and Brandon Rumbaugh's murders, is on the outskirts of Tonto National Forest, where Robert Fisher disappeared.

Interesting, too, is that police recently released new clues in the Cutshall and Allen slayings in order to seek the public's help. One of the things released was excerpts from some journal writing found in a driftwood shack located near the murder scene. Police are interested in knowing who wrote the entries. One particularly serious entry that speaks of alienation and anonymity is signed simply "R."



What links, if any, these unsolved homicides across the west and northwest have with each other remains to be seen. But surely enough similarities exist for law enforcement to investigate further. Someone is preying upon people in the great outdoors, bringing human violence to an otherwise unspoiled natural sanctuary. And the killer or killers show no sign of letting up.

“I do feel that whoever did this has a past of violent crimes,” Dan Bauman, Jeanette Bauman's son, wrote in an email to True Crime Diary. “I think that this person could have murdered in the past and will do many more in the future if they are not caught."


The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.