In January of 2001, a seattle-area real estate agent met with a mysterious client. They went to view a home in the nearby suburb of Woodinville. Within an hour, the body of Mike Emert would be found inside the empty home... and this potential client would never be identified. Years later, an unrelated home invasion seemed to break the case... but was it too late?
March 26th, 2010. It was around 10:30 PM on a Friday evening, and a middle-aged man and his twenty-year old son were returning home.
The man was Dr. Craig McAllister, an orthopedic surgeon who lived and worked in the Kirkland area of Washington - about fifteen miles northeast of Seattle.
His son, Ryan, had just returned from college to visit for his Spring Break holiday. Craig had driven down from their home, along Lake Washington, to SeaTac International Airport to pick him up. They came home directly from the airport, and had to park along the street, in front of the house. Earlier in the day, Dr. McAllister had arranged for a truck load of mulch to be delivered, which was sitting in a giant pile in the middle of his driveway.
As they walked up to the front of the house, they were suddenly accosted by a man wearing all black. His face was covered in a ski mask. This strange man calmly told the two McAllisters that he had a gun, and that if they just cooperated, no one would get hurt. He then insisted that both Craig and Ryan go along with his demands, and lead him inside the house.
Dr. Craig McAllister, though, knew that wasn't going to happen. Because out here it was just him and his adult son... inside, though, were his wife, Stacey, and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Lauren. He wasn't going to let this masked menace inside.
So, Craig did what his fight-or-flight reflexes were telling him to do: he fought. He jumped onto the masked man, and began raining punches down upon him. He was lashing out, trying his hardest to disorient and distract the man in a ski mask, while his son - Ryan - fled in the direction of a neighbor's house.
However, just moments later, a second masked man emerged from the corner of the house. Dr. McAllister never saw him coming, but he felt him. The second man in a ski mask pistol-whipped Craig from behind with a .45-caliber pistol. It immediately opened up a wound behind his left ear, and achieved its intended affect: the doctor was subdued.
Craig was led to the front door by the two men, who began trying to kick in the front door.
Craig's wife, Stacey, was drawn to the noise at the front door. It being 10:30 on a Friday, and with her son expected home any minute now, she didn't think much of it. So she began to approach the front door.
"As soon as I opened the door, I saw this man dressed from head to toe in black and he was yelling at me. I immediately slammed the door, dead-bolted it, and called 911."
Stacey locked the dead-bolt on the front door, and ran towards the back to phone the police. At around the same time, her son, Ryan, had made it to a neighbor's home and was dialing 911, as well.
The two masked men, who were becoming more frustrated and flustered, demanded that Dr. McAllister let them inside the home. He was now laying on the ground, a sort of hostage. In no certain terms, while laying there and nursing his head wound, he told them that he either wouldn't or couldn't.
At this point, the two bumbling home invaders realized that this ordeal kept getting worse with every passing second. They muttered between themselves for a moment, then demanded that Craig give them his car keys.
Craig was about to give in to their demands. He began reaching into his pocket, when he realized that his car keys were on the same ring as his house key. So, in order to avoid letting them inside the home, he told a little lie: he said that his son, Ryan, had the car keys. And he was long gone.
"They kind of mumbled to themselves and said, 'You stay on the ground. We're leaving.' I could see them gallop up the driveway and down the road."
After seeing the two gunmen leave, Dr. Craig McAllister stood up. He made his way inside, and waited for police to arrive. By the time they got there, minutes later, both culprits had run off into the night.
Sheriff's deputies responded to the potential home invasion. They brought with them both a K-9 team and a helicopter equipped with heat-seeking equipment, meant to track to two masked gunmen. They were unable to find a trail that led them to the two men.
The attack on this small family, along scenic Lake Washington, sparked concerns in this community. It also proposed a lot of unanswered questions, such as who the two men had been, why they wanted inside the home of Dr. Craig McAllister, and what they would have done if they had gotten inside.
But at the scene, police would find one incredibly important clue: a ski mask belonging to one of the gunmen. It had been ripped off during Dr. McAllister's scuffle near his own driveway. Investigators would take this ski mask into evidence, and it would end up pointing to a decade-old case file: a murder investigation, which had gone cold.
This is the story of Mike Emert.
Michael Angelo Emert was actually born Michael Angelo Locati, on November 13th, 1960.
His parents, Angelo Locati and Sondra Emert, divorced when he was six years old. After their divorce, he began going by his mother's maiden name, Emert, and it was then officially changed.
He grew up in the area of Walla Walla, which is a county as well as a city in southeastern Washington state. He graduated from Walla Walla high school in 1979, and then began attending Washington State University in Pullman, Washington... and from there, he would graduate just a few years later.
For a few years, he owned and operated a company called Superior Seed Co., while living in the Tri-Cities area of eastern Washington.
In the 1980's, inspired by an uncle that had made it as a successful realtor, Mike began working in the field of real estate. In 1991, he began working for Windemere Real Estate.
By this time, Mike had moved to the western side of Washington state, and when he began working for Windemere Real Estate, he began working in the highly-competitive Seattle area.
As a realtor, Mike Emert was well-liked and well-regarded; not only by his co-workers, but his customers, as well. He had won "Realtor of the Year" from Windemere, as well as being named a top Puget Sound Real Estate Professional twice (in 1998 and 1999), and even began selling multiple times that exceeded $1 million in-price. Mike was thriving in a heated market, as Seattle began exploding in the 1990's with several tech startups and a burgeoning economy.
Stuart Miner, a spokesman for Windemere, described Mike's standing in the community:
"Mike was highly regarded as a professional who went out of his way to help the client. His colleagues defined him as an amazing person because of his energy, sense of humor, and integrity."
Mike's charming personality endeared him to a young woman named Mary Beth Chandlerlong with her mother - also worked in the field of real estate. In the mid-1990's, the two began dating, and by 1996, the two were married.
Those that knew Mike and Mary Beth Emert described them as "soul mates." They were a couple that had a strong connection from the get-go, and loved one another fiercely. Mary Beth had a daughter from a prior relationship, named Lauren, who would become Mike's stepdaughter. Mike took an active role in her upbringing, often attending sporting events with her, and even serving as her basketball coach for a couple of years as she entered middle school. Mike and Mary Beth would have no additional children of their own.
They moved to the area of Redmond - a city about fifteen miles east of Seattle, but part of the same metropolitan area. For reference, Redmond is just east of Kirkland - the town from this episode's introduction - and is also just north of Lake Sammamish. Redmond is also considered the home of Microsoft, in case you were curious. It's a well-regarded, prominent area, which was indicative of the kind of the success that Mike and Mary Beth were having, going into the 21st century.
On January 3rd, 2001, Mike Emert met up with a client at a shopping mall not too far away from his home and office, over in Kirkland.
The client, who had contacted him directly, was interested in looking at home along the market in the Eastside area, near Woodinville. Woodinville is a smaller city about ten miles north of Kirkland; and, even though it's not a rural area by any stretch of the imagination, it's definitely a lot more of a suburban area. There's more green around, at the very least. Especially back in 2001, before the area really exploded in population.
The man in-question also had a home in particular that he wanted to look at, which they made a priority. Since Mike wasn't managing that property, he spoke to the seller's dealer, and arranged a time to visit that day.
The home that this potential client was looking at, up in the 19500 block of 157th Place Northeast, was valued at $589,000. It was a modern, recently-built, brick-and-beige three-story home, in an area full of older, ranch-styled houses.
Mike met the client at the parking lot of the shopping mall, and together, they headed up to the home in-question.
The house was located on a dead-end cul-de-sac, on a private lot, sort of away from any neighbors. It was pretty isolated, in other words, and the home was set back from the road itself.
The two men toured the home, and Mike picked up on the other man's interest. He had picked out this house in particular, and Mike was hopeful that he'd be able to close the house quickly.
The two left, and Mike dropped off the man at the parking lot they had met at.
Later that night, Mike spoke with his wife about the potential client. He described him as being "odd," that he was estimated to be in his early 50's, that he walked with a limp and carried a cane with him, and that he spoke with some kind of East Coast accent.
Mike also told his wife, Mary Beth, that the man claimed to have recently relocated from Northern California. He was currently staying with friends, he said, and worked either as a counselor or something a lot like it.
Mike also told his wife that, in his conversation with the other man, he had let drop that he was preparing to come into a large sum of money, perhaps from an inheritance.
The way Mike described this encounter to his wife, he seemed to be talking about a strange client. Which, as a real estate agent, they encountered on a daily basis. This was just the day's odd story, which Mike wanted to share. However, details were scarce, and Mary Beth didn't think about pushing for many more.
The following day - Thursday, January 4th, 2001 - started off like any other day.
Mike showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, and then went to work. His wife, Mary Beth - who also worked as a realtor - did the same.
When he arrived at work, Mike told a co-worker that he was going to meet up with a "weird dude" later that morning. However, he didn't share many more details, just dropping this tidbit as a joke, or a conversation-starter, something like that.
He marked in his work ledger, a daily planner, that he was going to meet up with a client named "Steven." From here-on out, I will refer to this client as "Steven," as this name became their standalone identifier. This mysterious client had made no communication with the rest of the Windemere office, having contacted Mike directly.
Once again, Mike and Steven met up at the parking lot of the nearby Kirkland Park Place shopping mall. This in itself was very unusual, as potential clients usually met with realtors and other agents at their office, or at the property they were viewing. Meeting at a third location was viewed as strange, even to Mike's wife, Mary Beth, who later stated:
"It was a red flag for me."
However, Mike and Steven met up at the Kirkplace Park Place parking lot at around 11:30 that morning. They then proceeded to head to the Woodinville property they had viewed the day before, driving together in Mike's black 2000 Cadillac Escalade.
At around 12:30 PM, a woman named Gail Garland was leaving work, headed home for her lunch break.
Gail Garland was the home-owner of the Woodinville property, who had had her home on the market for a short period of time. She had been expected a potential buyer to view the home late that morning, but they were expected to be gone by the time she arrived home for lunch.
It was around 12:40 PM when Gail made it to her home. She parked and entered the home through the garage. As she entered her house, she was immediately alarmed when she found the front door ajar.
As she began walking towards the front door, likely anxious and a little annoyed, she could hear the sound of running water upstairs. When she had pulled up to her home, she had not seen any other cars parked in the driveway or along the street, so this was very odd, to say the least.
She began creeping upstairs, unaware of what she was walking up to.
As soon as she made it most of the way up the stairs, she could she a trail of blood leading into the bathroom... where the sound of running water was currently emanating. She slowly crept up to the bathroom, and as she opened the door, she was greeted by a horrifying image.
The bruised and bloody body of Mike Emert was filling up the bathtub of her upstairs bathroom. The sound of running water had come from the shower head, which had been turned on and left on, as well as the running tap of the nearby sink.
Mary Beth Emert, Mike's wife, was driving when she got a call from her mother.
Her mother, another real estate agent that was at her office, had gotten word that something had happened to her son-in-law. Now, she had to break the news to her daughter, Mike's wife, by telephone.
As Mary Beth described, she was originally unable to grasp what she was being told.
"The realization that he was gone started to sink in while I was still on the telephone with my mom, but still, still hoping that, you know, maybe he was alive and maybe they were wrong, you know. Maybe it wasn't Mike. And I think it was just shock and disbelief."
The crime scene would quickly become a hotbed of police activity, as both local police and sheriffs responded.
This would become the first homicide in the city of Woodinville since 1997, so the King County Sheriff's Office was called in to assist from the get-go.
Investigators were able to put together the series of events that had led to the arrival of home-owner Gail Garland, and it wasn't pretty.
The working theory is that Mike had been showing the home to a client - this mysterious "Steven" - and the two had been in an upstairs bedroom when the client hit him from behind. This blow had likely either knocked him down or even knocked him out, but from there, the attacker had proceeded to brutally beat and stab Mike.
In total, Mike was stabbed repeatedly. Later reports would indicate that he had been stabbed nineteen times, with a weapon that resembled a long knife. More on that in a bit.
From there, the attacker - likely this client, "Steven" - had dragged the body of Mike Emert roughly eighteen feet, from this bedroom to the bathtub that he was later found in, lying face-down. After lifting him up and placing him inside of the tub, which required some physical prowess, this attacker had turned on the shower head and the sink. They had done both, likely, to eliminate any evidence from the body of Mike Emert, and to clean off their hands and let the continued stream of water wash away their own forensic fingerprint.
A later forensic examination of Mike's body and the house could only find DNA belonging to him, so it seemed like this killer's theory had worked. He had left behind no trace of himself at the crime scene.
Police discovered that a number of items were missing from Mike's body, including his wallet, his cell phone, his wedding ring, and his watch. His wedding ring, a golden band with three diamonds aligned in a row, was worth a pretty penny... estimates at the time put its value in the thousands. Likewise, Mike's watch - which was also missing - was a gold and silver Breitling wristwatch, worth upwards of $3000.
Despite this missing pieces of value, investigators never really considered the case a robbery. In fact, as they began to learn more about the case, they began to consider motives ranging from jealousy to this being a professional killing.
Hours later, police recovered Mike Emert's black Cadillac Escalade. It had been abandoned at the Kirkland Park Place shopping center that Mike had met the suspicious client twice in two days. They immediately suspected that Mike's killer had driven it back to the scene.
A thorough examination of the vehicle discovered some unique blood and skin samples, which didn't match up with Mike or any of his known acquaintances. The samples were submitted to the FBI DNA database later that year, in 2001.
Within 24 hours of the murder, Mike's wallet would be found in Seattle itself. It was unknown why they were abandoned where they were - on top of a payphone at the Colman docks, also known as Pier 52, which is a ferry terminal.
After looking through the wallet, investigators determined that Mike's ATM card was missing. A later check with bank records would discover that this ATM card had been used after Mike's murder.
A few days later, Mike's cell phone was recovered. This detail was held a bit closer to the chest of the investigators, though, who declined to say where or how it had been found. However, they would confirm that Mike's cell phone had been used after his murder, and had made some outgoing telephone calls. No details of those have ever been released.
Unlike the other missing items, Mike's diamond wedding ring and his expensive wristwatch were never found.
Within a week or two of the crime taking place, investigators developed their first suspect.
This suspect was a homeless man, who often hung around the area of the Kirkland Park Place shopping mall where Mike had twice-encountered the mysterious "Steven."
Not only did this transient match the physical description of this potential client, but he also had a physical limp and walked with a cane. In addition to being a Vietnam veteran, he had also worked as a counselor in the past, which matched multiple points in Mike's description of his enigmatic client.
The man, Jeffrey John Solo, was in his early 60's, and was a divorced father of four; one of his children happens to be world-famous Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo. Jeffrey would later admit to both police and local newspapers that while he was a "con man" of sorts, he was not a killer. This was confirmed by his own criminal record, which showed a conviction in the late 1970's for fraud, but showed no signs of a violent record.
"I've been in the street for five years. I've been mean. But I did not kill this guy. I didn't even know who he was."
Detective Tom Jensen stated about this person-of-interest:
"This guy is a very good con artist."
Jeffrey John Solo admitted that he had used women in the past, often times posing as a potential home buyer to meet female realtors and real estate agents.
However, Solo said that whoever this killer was, it wasn't him. In fact, the killer might have been trying to frame him, by posing as some one with so many of the shared characteristics.
Solo cooperated with investigators, going through the process of taking a polygraph test, and giving up samples of both his hair and blood.
Solo was never officially detained or charged with any crimes, and in March of 2001, he was officially cleared as a suspect.
Sergeant John Urquhart, a spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office, stated:
"We don't believe that he was part and parcel to the homicide. We're still trying to figure out what, if any, connections to the crime (he) may have."
No further information would come to light, and eventually, Jeffrey John Solo was later cleared of any involvement. His daughter, Hope Solo, actually struggled to get her father officially cleared of any wrongdoing, beyond his death in 2007, due to a heart attack. She later told a publication:
"No matter what he did, he was my father. He helped create the person I am. He showered me with love; he just didn't know how to be a husband or a father or a responsible member of society."
The investigation into the murder of Mike Emert continued, and focused in on a number of potential motives.
They had started out by inquiring about Mike's finances, and worked their way into his group of family and friends. They wanted to determine if anyone in his social circle had a reason to want Mike killed; and if so, who stood to benefit from him being gone.
Jon Holland, a detective for the King County Sheriff's Office, stated:
"While conducting hundreds of interviews with people, even going back 10 years ago, and a prior business that he was involved in, we have not interviewed anybody that can establish why somebody would want to have Mike Emert killed."
These interviews included an exhaustive investigation into Mike's own wife, Mary Beth, and his assortment of colleagues. Nothing was found.
By this point, police had worked around to the theory that whoever had killed Mike Emert had likely conducted similar violent crimes. Jon Holland, the detective I just quoted, said as much:
"Whoever did it is at least experienced."
This began to lead police down the path of believing that this crime had been premeditated at the very least; and, to the furthest their investigation could extend, it even looked like this could be the work of a professional hitman.
Investigators were able to discover that whomever had met with Mike Emert that day - likely this client he referred to as "Steven" in his daily planner - had used payphones to make contact with Mike They had not met with or spoken with any of Mike's co-workers, making it a point to contact him directly from anonymous payphones.
It is not publicly known how many houses that this mysterious client had been looking at, but police theorized that this house was purposefully chosen by this unknown killer. Likely, because it was so isolated and separated from any of the neighbors.
Jim Doyon, a detective for the King County Sheriff's Office, may be a familiar name for some of you. He was one of the detectives who worked on the decades-long Green River Killer case, and he even popped up in a prior story I've covered: that of missing teenager Misty Copsey.
Detective Doyon was active in this investigation, and spoke about the killer's methodology.
"It appears that he may have reconnoitered and actually singled out this home as the best place to assault Mike. Now that suggests some sophisticated criminal thinking going on."
Out of the very few details that police were able to glean about this mysterious client, taken from conversations Mike had had with his wife and other co-workers, was that the killer had walked with a limp and used a cane for assistance. They now believed that this was a complete fabrication, meant to lull Mike Emert into a false sense of security.
From the evidence that they were able to put together, it had seemed like the killer attacked Mike from behind, in one of the bedrooms. He had shown the ability to physically overpower Mike, who stood about six feet tall, weighed approximately 185 pounds, and was in very good shape. Mike had been beaten and stabbed numerous times, and from there, the killer was able to drag or carry Mike over eighteen feet, from this bedroom to the bathroom he was found in. Then, at that point, they were able to lift Mike up into the bathtub, where he was later found. All without leaving behind any evidence of their own.
This was clearly not the action of a man in his early fifties who was physically impaired.
Now, police turned their sights on the possible weapon used by Mike's attacker.
Due to the stab wounds, and the examination performed by the autopsy, it had seemed like the killer had utilized a long knife. However, months later, it would be revealed that this could have been a long knife, or even a sword.
It was then theorized that the cane utilized by this mysterious "Steven" might have contained a hidden blade, which was concealed up until its usage.
Detective Jim Doyon stated:
"I think it's possible that the weapon was this cane. And the cane might have been one of these sword canes or a cane with a knife in it. So maybe the initial blitz assault to stun Mike was striking Mike with the cane from behind. The knife portion of the cane was used to kill Mike. Mike was nearly six feet tall, weighed 187 pounds. I think we have an offender here that was able to overcome a man of Mike's stature and then drag his body perhaps about 18 feet from one room to where he came to rest. The water in the shower was turned on, and the two faucets in the vanity sinks were found running. That, to me, speaks of an attempt to get rid of any trace evidence. Hairs, fibers, things like that would be washed down the drain. He's cleaning his hands off in the sink, cleaning the weapon off in the sink. This was probably not this individual's first murder, or certainly not his first violent assault."
Over ten King County investigators worked on the case early on, contributing their expertise and legwork. However, all of these detectives - aided by a countless number of fellow officers, aides, analysts, and experts - were unable to come up with any smoking gun that pointed to a suspect. Outside of a small amount of DNA found in Mike's SUV - which hadn't found any matches - it seemed like they had covered up their tracks insanely well.
Sergeant John Urquhart, of the King County Sheriff's Office, stated:
"What's most unusual about this case is we still don't have a motive. Usually in these cases there's something to do with sex, drugs, or money. It's just not there."
Out of the people affected by Mike's tragic death, none was hit harder than his wife, Mary Beth. Just hours before his senseless murder, she had been looking forward to a long and happy life with Mike as her soul mate... but then, on a random Thursday in January of 2001, that changed forever.
"It is important we have that final closure - that we know whoever did this is brought to justice. It doesn't really matter what punishment they receive. Just knowing who did this and what their reasons for doing it were will be important for my daughter. She's only 12."
Mary Beth struggled endlessly after Mike's murder, mainly with his violent, sudden end.
"I've been putting his murder and his death in two separate places, because if I dwelt on the fact he was murdered, I'm pretty sure I'd never get out of bed."
As weeks began to turn into months, she continued to struggle with the very notion of Mike being murdered.
"It's just like being blown up from the inside out. I do feel not having that closure is definitely standing in the way of me saying my final goodbye to Mike."
Brad Blackburn, a lifelong friend of Mike's that lived in his hometown of Walla Walla, received the news in shock.
"He was a great guy. It's very unfortunate. He didn't deserve this."
A $50,000 reward was announced, primarily put together by local real estate organizations that were concerned about the very nature of the case.
Mike's boss, Joe Deasy, who owned several Windemere establishments on the Eastside, said that Mike's death:
"... made us realize we needed to take our safety precautions to an entirely different level."
This fear was felt by realtors throughout the Pacific Northwest, and Mike Emert's murder served as a major impetus for safety standards in real estate. The Washington State Real Estate Safety Council was established shortly afterwards, and aimed to protect real estate agents and keep them from unsafe situations. It created standards which stand today; in particular, client vetting, in which real estate agents or realtors will often require clients leave a driver's license or a pair of keys at their office whenever they head to a property. Also, they no longer meet up with clients at a third location, insisting that they meet beforehand at their office.
Mike's case was highlighted in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, hosted by Robert Stack. The episode aired on September 12th, 2001... while most viewers were distracted by the events of the day prior. Many think that the story didn't have much resonance in the media for that reason, as the events of 9/11 caused even fans of the original series to miss that episode's airing.
After the second anniversary of Mike's tragic death, Mary Beth spoke with local publications. She was still struggling to get back to some kind of normality, even two years out, but stated:
"... at least I feel the fog has lifted some. Slowly but surely, I'm digging myself out."
Jon Holland, a detective for the King County Sheriff's Office, spoke to the press in 2004 - over three years removed from the crime itself. He stated that the police were still unsure of how to follow up on any leads, since they didn't have an understanding of the killer himself.
"This person that he met with, we have no idea who that is. We don't even know if that's the real name of the person, and we don't know how accurate that description is."
Detective Holland's words were less than positive, and seemed to indicate that the investigation was close to entering "cold case" status, especially when he shared:
"We don't really have a direction to go."
Mary Beth Emert, Mike's widowed wife, remained optimistic and hopeful regarding the hunt for her husband's killer:
"I'm trying to be patient, and I just know someday they'll call and have good news for me. I know when they catch someone, I'll be reliving the whole thing. But I'm so ready to go and fight for justice for Mike."
Over the next decade, Mike Emert's case continued to languish.
Investigators were unable to uncover any new information about the mysterious client that Mike had met on the morning of his murder, and whether or not they were his killer. They struggled to come up with any new evidence, other than the trace amount of DNA found in Mike's Cadillac Escalade, which belonged to an unknown third party. It had been submitted to the FBI forensic database later that year, in 2001, but had come up with nothing in the years since.
A decade passed. In that time, Mike's story became a cautionary tale for real estate agents and realtors, and led to overhauls in their safety precautions. But his case remained unsolved, and flew mostly under-the-radar for the area at-large.
Then, in September of 2011, Mike's widow - Mary Beth - received a call. In that call, she was finally given the good news that she had been waiting for since January of 2001.
According to the law enforcement official on the other end of the phone, they had a "rock solid DNA match."
Gary Krueger was born on January 28th, 1948.
He graduated from Seattle's Lincoln High School in 1967, enlisting in the United States Navy before he even graduated. He left for Vietnam in November of 1967, and shortly thereafter, volunteered for the US Marine Corps.
While in the Marines, he became part of the Combined Action Group, an elite, experimental group that merged community service with psy-ops work in Vietnam. Gary was present for the Tet Offensive, as well as many other pivotal moments of the war itself.
However, while in Vietnam, Gary's mindset began to change. He became much more aggressive, his patience depleted, and when he returned to the states just two years after his enlistment, he came back as a changed young man.
Krueger was honorably discharged in January of 1969, and returned to the Seattle area he had grown up in.
In June of 1969, Gary Krueger became a Seattle Police Officer; as well as joining the Army Reserves. Over the next eleven years, he would work various beats for the Seattle PD, including patrol, traffic, and even tactical squad duty.
In the early 1970's, he met and married his wife, Betty, and the two would have a tumultuous relationship over the next few decades. They also produced one child, a daughter, shortly after their marriage.
While a police officer, Gary obtained a bit of a poor reputation. He quickly became known for being a hothead, and his quick temper would get him into a handful of pickles as a cop.
In 1970, Gary responded to a call from a hospital, in which a patient - an unruly Vietnam vet, much like himself - was harassing nurses and other patients. Gary used a wrestling hold to restrain this fellow veteran, and as a result, the man later died.
He faced no punishment for this incident.
In 1974, Gary was responsible for beating a man alongside another police officer. The man, who had been arrested by the two officers, was beaten several inside a police parking garage. Gary and the other officer received a slap on the wrist, and the man that was beaten was later awarded $3000 in a civil case.
In 1977, Gary was in pursuit of a prowling suspect. While sitting in the front seat of his patrol car, he claimed that the suspect produced a knife and threatened his life. Without even standing, Gary Krueger shot the suspect, named Roger Lee Stanley, four times. He died at the scene. Gary was actually tried in court for this shooting incident, but it was ruled as "justified" by a jury.
In 1979, Gary entered a blind rage when a man, who was high on PCP, tried shooting Gary with his own weapon. In response, Gary began to beat the man several; it was described in multiple reports that the man was "nearly beaten to death." He was only stopped by other officers, who pulled him off of the drugged-out suspect.
This last incident had him referred to a psychologist, and a troubled friend even took away Gary's weapons as a precaution.
At this point, Gary's anger issues had turned into a serious problem. It had divided him from his own family, and seemed poised to ruin his relationships with his co-workers and his friends.
He began to attend court-ordered therapy sessions, and in 1980, Psychiatrist John Berberich called Gary "a liability" in a professional letter:
"Officer Krueger was becoming increasingly unable to control his temper and was becoming physically abusive to suspects and exercising excessive force."
It was in 1980 that Gary Krueger officially announced his retirement from the Seattle Police Department. In his letter of retirement, he cited a back injury obtained during a foot pursuit, but almost everyone knew the actual reason: it was either retire or be fired.
He also had to withdraw from the Army Reserves during this time period.
Gary Krueger was just entering his early thirties, and he had already found himself removed from the two careers he had pursued. Now he found himself lost, adrift, and angrier than ever.
After being pushed out of the Seattle Police Department, Gary Krueger began a short-lived career as a real estate agent. However, this was really short-lived; by 1982, Gary was again unemployed, and now, facing bankruptcy.
You see, Krueger had developed a series of personal issues throughout the 1970's. Most notable was his temper, but hidden under the surface was a gambling habit, which had turned into an addiction. Both had led to him separating from his wife, Betty, in the mid-1970s; they eventually reconciled, but then officially divorced in 1970.
From there, Gary's habits got worse and worse. He doubled down on his gambling addictions after his real estate career dried up, and he began to lose himself in a spiral of uncontrollable emotions.
But in 1984, things began to turn around again. Gary found himself with some pocket money, and he was even able to reconcile with his wife, Betty. They remarried that year, and Gary - who was still out-of-work - was able to pay for their small family to take trips through the US.
Things seemed to be trending upwards over the next couple of years; at least, until October of 1986.
A Grays Harbor County Deputy began following a speeding Chrysler, driven by a suspicious individual. As he began following the vehicle, he called in the license plate, and discovered that the vehicle had been stolen just outside of Seattle.
Eventually, the vehicle pursuit ended in a dramatic crash, and the Chrysler went off-the-road. When the deputy stepped forward to check the driver, he found Gary Krueger behind the wheel; wearing a trench-coat, and having in his possession two dufflebags that contained ski masks, rubber masks, a police scanner, and multiple firearms.
A check on the items involved pointed to a robbery spree, which had spanned between 1984 and 1986, and included the towns of Aberdeen, Grayland, Freeland, Naselle, Rochester, and Graham. In all occasions, one of the bandits had always demanded "big money" and traveler's checks. Coincidentally, Gary used traveler's checks on his family's vacations through the country.
In March of 1987, Gary Krueger pleaded guilty to two federal felony armed robbery charges. His robbert partner, Karl Keller, cooperated with investigators earlier, and was able to plead guilty to only one charge.
Gary Krueger was given a fifteen-year sentence for the bank robbery spree, with the possibility of early release for good behavior.
Behind bars, Krueger must have been a model prisoner, because he was released a little over five years after pleading guilty, in 1992. His family had stood by him during his incarceration, suffering through intense financial hardship with him behind bars.
Gary was still relatively young, just in his mid-forties, and he still had time to get his life back on-track. However, Gary had already fallen too far into a criminal mindset, and had lost himself there.
In January of 1999, Gary Krueger was given a misdemeanor charge for third degree theft in Kirkland, Washington; with it being a misdemeanor, it didn't carry any jail-time.
Just a month after the murder of real estate agent Mike Emert, a bank was robbed in Issaquah, Washington. The bandit made away with $3,130. We know that this crime was committed by Gary Krueger, because - just two months later - the robber struck the same bank yet again.
Using a pellet gun to hold up the tellers, the bandit managed to escape out the front doors with over $6,500. However, while attempting to flee, the thief was arrested.
Surprise surprise... it was Gary Krueger.
During his trial proceedings, he was convicted on the two robbery charges, and given a rather-lenient sentence of seventy months. The judge took pity on Krueger's recent diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder, and urged him to get his life together.
Throughout this entire time, Gary's wife, Betty, had stuck by him. Her patience was rewarded again, in 2004, when Gary was given a chance to be released early.
Gary Krueger agreed to an agreement, which would allow him to be paroled early... in exchange for him submitting his DNA to federal authorities.
Unfortunately, Gary would be released, but a DNA sample would not be collected by federal parole officers until 2007. Even then, after obtaining the sample, it was sent to the FBI officers in Virginia, where it sat for several more years, caught up in their perpetual backlog of forensic testing.
When Gary Krueger's DNA sample was finally tested, in 2011, it had been nearly a decade since he had originally been paroled. And, as investigators would soon learn, this testing would be much too little, and conducted much too late.
In March of 2010, the McAllister family was terrorized by a couple of would-be home invaders along Lake Washington. This is the story I told you in the introduction of the episode: how an orthopedic surgeon fought back against two masked men, got pistol-whipped, and the two gunmen ended up running off into the night.
Well, left behind at the scene was a ski mask, which had belonged to one of the gunmen. Dr. McAllister had ripped it off during their scuffle, and it had been abandoned by the two men as they made their getaway.
Well, a quick forensic examination of the ski mask yielded multiple DNA samples. When they were put into the system, they quickly came up with a suspect: a man named John Alan Bradshaw.
John Alan Bradshaw was, at this point, sixty-five years old. His past didn't point to any kind of violent crime, at least, not crimes related to home invasion. Rather, he had been previously convicted for arson and money laundering, which yielded an eight year-sentence. He had been convicted in 2001, and released in 2008.
However, a quick check through his records pointed to an address where he had been living for a short period of time. That home was owned by none other than one Gary Krueger.
Police attempted to find John Alan Bradshaw, but even weeks after the failed home invasion of the McAllister house, they couldn't find him. Neither could they find his renter, Gary Krueger.
In fact, just one week after the failed home invasion, Gary's wife, Betty, had filed a missing persons report. In it, she stated that her husband was broke and was desperate for money.
Police now suspected that the two men were in on the attempted crime together, perhaps intending to rob the McAllisters... but the motive was unknown. After all, if robbery was the motive, they likely would have gone after a cash-heavy target.
They would spend the next six months trying to fit the pieces together, but it wasn't until September that they would make another huge discovery.
In September of 2010, the body of Gary Krueger was found, floating along the surface of Lake Washington. His wife, Betty Krueger, filed for bankruptcy the very next day.
A thorough examination of his surroundings revealed a capsized boat nearby where his body was found; the nine-foot skiff had been stolen from a neighbor of the McAllisters on the night the attempted home invasion occurred. Now, six months later, it was found buried underneath the surface of Lake Washington.
Inside the boat, investigators found a dufflebag that contained hand restraints, duct tape, and ammunition for the weapons that the two men - Gary Krueger and John Alan Bradshaw - had been supposedly carrying.
This discovery led to many questions about the motives of the two men, and whether it had been a simple robbery. These tools seemed to indicate a much more violent potential outcome.
Investigators could only find obscure links between the McAllister family and either Krueger or Bradshaw, but they continued to operate as if the missing suspect was still alive.
Dr. Craig McAlliser, the home owner who had attempted to fight off the two armed men, stated:
"We're functioning as if (John Alan) Bradshaw is alive and he's coming back. It's just safer to function that way... than to let our guard down."
This view was shared by the King County Sheriff's Office, even though they had a much more realistic outlook. They had discovered the van that Krueger and Bradshaw had been driving on the night-in-question, and it was found at a strip-mall parking lot, just a little over a mile away from the McAllister home. This indicated that they had meant to go back, but never got the chance.
Sergeant John Urquhart, the King County Sheriff's spokesman, stated about the possibility of John Alan Bradshaw still being alive:
"Of course, it's possible. But they went in the water in March in the middle of the night. You'd have to be a pretty good swimmer."
In 2016, King County finally released a statement, determining that the motive for the two criminals to attempt a home invasion of the McAllisters was something so mundane that it defies all expectations.
Scott Tompkins, a detective for King County, stated:
"The motive was that the doctor would not do Betty's knee replacement surgery."
Yes, you heard that right. Dr. McAllister wouldn't do a knee surgery for Gary Krueger's wife, for free, so instead of trying to figure out a payment plan, he decided to break into the McAllister home and ruin a family forever.
For that, though, he paid the ultimate price. But before he plunged into the depths of Lake Washington, unable to swim to safety, Gary Krueger had kept several secrets, which dated back decades.
A year after being discovered floating in Lake Washington, the wife of murdered real estate agent Mike Emert received a call. This phone call, informing her that a DNA match had been made to her husband's supposed killer, came with a caveat.
The DNA match, which had paired up forensic evidence found inside of Mike's black Cadillac Escalade, had been in the FBI forensic database since 2001. However, the sample it paired with - that of former police officer-turned-bank robber Gary Krueger - had been sitting on a shelf for over four years.
As I've already discussed, Gary Krueger's DNA was supposed to be drawn when he was paroled in 2004. However, a sample wasn't taken until 2007, and even when it was, it sat in the FBI's backlog for another four years.
So, by the time Mary Beth received a phone call, informing her that Mike's killer had been found, this alleged killer had already been dead for a year-and-a-half.
If the sample had been tested when submitted to the FBI, back in 2007, investigators might have had a chance to detain Gary Krueger, and question him thoroughly. They might have even been able to determine a potential motive; because now, even though Gary Krueger's DNA was found in Mike's Escalade, they were no closer to determining why.
They began looking into Gary Krueger's real estate dealings; after all, while his post-law enforcement real estate career was short-lived, he also owned a couple of properties in the area. And since his partner-in-crime, John Alan Bradshaw, had been previously convicted for arson and money laundering, they thought there might be some kind of connection there.
However, after an exhaustive amount of digging, investigators could find nothing that linked Krueger to Mike Emert.
But they did find some connections that dated back through the 1980s... and all of it tied back into investigator's most prominent theory: that the murder of Mike Emert had been a professional hit.
In 1981, a former police officer named Terry Dolan was shot outside of a gas station. He actually owned and managed the gas station, in Everett, Washington. He was killed in what originally looked like a robbery, but was later determined to be staged by the unknown killer.
Gary Krueger, then a struggling real estate agent, was suspected of involvement in the crime, but never charged, due to a lack of evidence.
In 1984, a Bellevue attorney named Jim Barry stayed late at work, preparing for a late-night appointment with a client. He was then stabbed repeatedly by an unknown attacker, and left to bleed out in his office.
Gary Krueger was not initially suspected, but it was later determined that Barry, an attorney, was representing a bank that was involved in collection efforts against Krueger - who had fallen behind, and was now delinquent on a large loan.
In 1985, a Seattle union boss - who headed the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union Local 8 - was found murdered in a bathtub. In a crime that bore a striking resemblance to the murder of Mike Emert, Mario Vaccarino had been beaten to death, before being dragged into a bathtub. Parmesan cheese had been sprinkled over his body, which was alleged to be related to some kind of mob warning. It was assumed that this crime was linked to the mob's potential takeover of Union pension plans.
Krueger was actually suspected of involvement, after it was revealed that his buddy, Joe Massimino, Sr., worked for the union. The two went back to their time in Vietnam, and Massimino worked under Mario Vaccarino and was worried about being fired. After Vaccarino's death, though, he succeeded the man and became Union president.
After Gary's death, investigators questioned Betty's wife about his potential criminal involvement. When the subject of Mario Vaccarino came up, she all but admitted to Gary's involvement in the murder. As King County detective Scott Tompkins later said:
"We told her, 'Look, we can't do anything to Gary - he's dead. We're just trying to get answers to the victims.' We asked her, 'Did he kill Mario?'"
Betty Krueger responded:
"Of course he did."
It is believed that Gary Krueger had a hand in all three of these murders; that of Terry Dolan, Jim Barry, and Jim Barry. Krueger popped up as a person-of-interest in all three crimes, but police never had enough evidence against him to officially file charges or detain him.
While Gary had some kind of connection to all three victims, it is believed that he may have murdered all three as a professional; that is, as a "hitman." The crimes might have been conducted as a favor to friends, or out of his own self-interest, but after information began to arise, tying Krueger to these three separate crimes, police publicly floated their belief that Gary Krueger was a professional hitman.
Chris Halsne, an investigative journalist who covered Gary Kruger's past for the Seattle-area TV station KIRO, stated about Gary Krueger:
"Write up a terrible, evil character. A serial killer, a man with no soul, and think it's fiction. But you're really writing about Gary Krueger."
In addition to the three unsolved murders from the 1980s, King County Sheriff's investigators publicly stated in 2011 that they believe Gary Krueger was the man responsible for killing Mike Emert back in 2001. Based on his violent history, and his DNA being found in Mike's SUV for no apparent reason, he has emerged as their sole suspect.
However, it is still unknown why he would have been involved. The only potential motive that investigators could determine was that Gary Krueger had been a professional hitman; perhaps not a very active one, but a paid killer nonetheless.
Questions were raised about why it had taken so long for the DNA to match up; after all, Krueger had been a convicted felon before Mike's murder, and was supposed to submit a DNA upon his parole in 2004. As I've already said, that didn't happen, until it was taken in 2007 and later tested in 2011.
This delay in testing has become a hot button issue in the criminal justice community, as forensic testing becomes a more vital component of the system at-large. Analysts are presented with more and more samples to test and compares against the millions of additional samples in the FBI forensic databases; this backlog has led to many cases like this, finding answers much too late for any true justice to be served.
Compounding this issue of a forensic testing backlog, areas like King County have found themselves facing budget issues over the last decade or so.
The King County Cold Case Unit was actually disbanded at the end of 2012, due to the dissolution of a large grant and an overall lack of funding. The Cold Case Unit, which had solved eight murder cases between 2009 and 2012, was forced to close up shop and hand off all of its case files to King County's Major Crimes division... who now try to work on cold cases in-between their more pressing investigative work. This happens to include CSI work, which is handled in-house; after all, King County doesn't have a dedicated CSI unit of its own, and works in cooperation with AFIS and other King County Sheriff's units.
Scott Tompkins, a King County detective I have quoted through this episode, stated the impact of cold cases being handled by Major Crimes investigators:
"Although you have the best intentions to get to it, the day to day stuff piles up and you don't get to it."
At the time of the closure, King County had over 230 unsolved cases, which were then handed off to the "2 sergeants, 12 detectives, 1 polygraphist, and administrative support" that work for the MCU. And that's a quote taken directly from the King County Sheriff's website.
Sergeant Jesse Anderson, who worked as the head of the Cold Case Unit, stated:
"We've tried in the past to work these cases on an 'as time permits' basis, but it just doesn't work. We don't want to leave them [families of victims] without any hope, but to actively work these investigations we will not have the people to do it."
It has been close to a decade since police uncovered a link between the unsolved murder of Michael Emert and former police officer Gary Krueger, but they are still no closer to determining how the two had come into contact, and why.
What we know about Mike Emert is that he was a successful real estate agent, who had a promising career ahead of him, was well-liked and well-regarded among everyone that knew him, and who seemed like an all-around great guy.
Meanwhile, Gary Krueger was a disgraced former police officer-turned-career criminal, who had been in-and-out of prison for twenty years at the time of Mike Emert's death. He had been a failed real estate agent in the early 1980s, when Michael was still in college, and had developed a bad gambling habit over his unfortunate life.
Was this murder a well-constructed robbery-gone-wrong, or was there something more to it? King County investigators have proposed a probable-yet-troubling theory of their own: that Gary Krueger was a contract killer, who was suspected of involvement in a number of violent deaths following his career as a law enforcement agent.
These are all puzzle pieces that create an image which is still unfinished... after all, if Gary Krueger was a professional hitman, as investigators claim, that means that the person who hired him is still out there. And while Gary Krueger drowned in Lake Washington following a botched home invasion in 2010, the person that may have paid him to kill Mike Emert has escaped justice for nearly twenty years. Any answers that Krueger could have provided drowned with him.
While many publications seem to indicate that the case has been solved, that is not the case. Investigators have put together an incredibly enticing story regarding their chief suspect, Gary Krueger, but it is just that: a story. Krueger never stood in front of a courtroom, so it is impossible to convict him postmortem. As such, the case of Mike Emert is still wide open. And you don't have to take my word for it.
In 2016, King County Sheriff's spokesman Sergeant John Urquhart said as much:
"The case of Mike Emert is an open and active case."
If you, or anyone you know, may have information about the case, please reach out to investigators. Two items of Michael Emert's have never been recovered: his gold-and-silver Breitling Chronomat watch, and a gold wedding ring which had three diamonds in a row across the center. The interior of the ring is inscribed with the letters "ADI."
If those sound familiar, or any other details ring a bell, please don't be afraid to reach out. The King County Sheriff's Office can be reached at 206-296-3311, and they have a web presence, as well. Sergeant John Urquhart, among others that work for King County, believe that a single tip could still be the thing that breaks the case.
As of this episode's recording, the story of Mike Emert remains unresolved.
Sources and further reading
- Unsolved Mysteries - "Mike Emert"
- True Crime Diary - "The Boat at the Bottom of Lake Washington"
- Seattle PI - "Tips still sought in 2001 slaying"
- The Seattle Times - "Man sought in killing of real estate agent"
- The Woodinville Weekly - "Decade-old murder in Woodinville may be solved, TV station reports"
- The Seattle Times - "Family lives in fear a year after attempted home invasion"
- Chinook Observer - "Naselle Noir: Deadly robbers terrified tellers in 1984 heist"
- KIRO 7 - "Seattle union boss murder tied to professional killer"