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Police believe remains in Wash. home are of owner

December 11, 2011

WASHOUGAL, Wash. (AP) — Authorities believe one of the bodies found in a Washington state home that burned this week belonged to the home’s owner, a man who was under investigation for sex crimes.

Steven D. Stanbary, 47, was due to turn himself in to Washougal detectives Thursday. Stanbary’s house caught fire the day before, and a man inside fired shots to prevent neighbors, firefighters and police from helping.

On Saturday, Clark County sheriff’s officials said in a release that they “believe strongly” that one of the bodies found was Stanbary, and they said the case was being investigated as a murder-suicide. They linked their conclusion to personal effects and identifying items found close to the remains.

“Based upon the totality of information known to detectives at this time, investigators believe strongly that Steve Stanbary is the suspect and that his remains have likely been recovered,” the sheriff’s office said. “All known facts continue to support the belief that Steve Stanbary is deceased.”

Final confirmation of the victims’ identities could take several weeks. The sheriff’s office hasn’t specified the conditions of the bodies, but said they will rely on dental records and DNA testing to make final identifications.

Authorities found at least two bodies in the charred rubble where Stanbary lived with his wife and her identical twin sister. Identifying the second victim could be difficult, given that identical twins have extremely similar DNA.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Allais declined to provide details about the sex crimes investigation, except to tell The Columbian that it involved allegations of repeated incidents of abuse. Allais declined to say whether it involved more than one alleged victim or what the connection was to Stanbary.

Stanbary had a history of espousing white supremacist views, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

But investigators said Friday they did not believe the fire at his house had anything to do with the 27th anniversary of a more well-known standoff that killed white supremacist Robert J. Mathews, the founder of the neo-Nazi group The Order, on Whidbey Island, Wash., as his house burned down around him.

Washougal detectives arranged with Stanbary’s lawyer Tuesday that he would turn himself in on Thursday, they said.

Stanbary was arrested and served 90 days in jail following a standoff with sheriff’s deputies in Bonner County, Idaho, in 1994. Authorities seized a weapons cache at his home, including a grenade launcher, a sawed-off shotgun and six AK-47 assault rifles.