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String of Seattle Killings Leaves 9 Dead

July 27, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) _ A 3-year-old had his throat slit and died along with his brother, mother and aunt as his father served in Iraq. Hikers found a librarian and her daughter slain along a trail. Five teens and young men were shot when they pulled their car into a driveway.

The crimes left nine people dead in as many days, stunning this generally peaceful region. Law enforcement officials said they couldn’t recall a similar string of multiple homicides in the Seattle area.

``What’s really strange about them, besides the quantity, is that every one of these cases is very bizarre,″ King County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart said. ``We just don’t have that.″

The Seattle area is no stranger to horrific crimes _ take serial killers Gary Ridgway and Ted Bundy, for example, or the unsolved assassination of federal prosecutor Tom Wales in 2001. Last March, a man shot and killed six people and wounded two others at a rave after-party in the worst mass killing the city had seen in decades.

But Seattle’s murder rate is low for a city of nearly 600,000. There were 24 killings in 2004, 25 last year and 17 so far this year. Boston, of comparable size, had 61 in 2004 and 73 last year.

Seattle police spokesman Rich Pruitt said the city typically gets one or two multiple homicides a year, although he noted that none of the three cases this month took place within city limits.

The string of recent crimes began July 11, when hikers found Seattle librarian Mary Cooper, 56, and her daughter, Susanna Stodden, 27, shot to death about three miles up a popular Mount Pilchuck trail 50 miles northeast of the city. No arrests have been made, and detectives have revealed little about their investigation.

Then, on July 17, fire investigators in the eastern suburb of Kirkland found the family of National Guard Sgt. Leonid Milkin dead in a burned-out home. Investigators determined gasoline had been used to start the fire.

Witness accounts led them to a next-door neighbor, who was charged Monday with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Charging papers said the neighbor, Conner Michael Schierman, 24, admitted that he woke up in the victims’ home covered in blood following an alcoholic blackout and didn’t remember what had happened.

Last Thursday, just south of the city limits, five young people were asked to leave a bowling alley and casino because two of them were underage. As they left, they argued with people who had been smoking outside a nearby home, police said. They pulled their car into the driveway to continue the argument, and two men at the home _ Dimitri Sidorchuk, 23, and a friend, William Shane Belk _ unloaded dozens of shots into the vehicle, court documents said. Of the five unarmed people in the car, two were killed and three were injured.

One of Sidorchuk’s stray bullets struck Belk, and he also died. Sheriff’s deputies said they later found a marijuana-growing operation at the home. Sidorchuk was charged Tuesday with two counts of second-degree murder, one of first-degree manslaughter and three counts of first-degree assault.

``These crimes are just gruesome,″ said Doug Canfield of Mountaineers Books in Seattle, who helped arrange a $6,000 reward for information in the trail killings. ``We’re just hoping this crime will be solved so people can head out to the trails again with a feeling of safety.″

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