The bodies of two people and four dogs were recovered Thursday from the fire-scarred ruins of a house in southwestern Washington where gunfire and explosions broke out a day earlier. A third person remains missing, authorities confirmed.
The home in Washougal, Wash., near Portland, Ore., is that of Steven Douglas Stanbary, who has expressed antigovernment sentiments in the past, apparently including rage at the government’s handling of the landmark 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge in northern Idaho. In 1994, Stanbary threatened to kill his wife and children and held sheriff’s deputies at bay before being arrested.
One source said Stanbary was among dozens of people who gathered at a roadblock below the Ruby Ridge mountaintop, protesting the actions of federal agents during their siege of the family of white supremacist Randy Weaver and his family. Three people died during that 10-day standoff, including a federal marshal and Weaver’s wife and son, and the incident ultimately became a launching pad for the militia movement. Stanbary later described Weaver as his hero, authorities said.
Clark County Sheriff Sgt. Kevin Allais confirmed to Hatewatch late Wednesday that federal and county investigators, who spent the day doing a forensic processing of the charred remains of the Stanbary home, had recovered two bodies. He also confirmed that a third person is still missing.
The two recovered bodies were badly burned, and the sheriff’s official said he couldn’t speculate on the identities or the genders of the dead. Those missing include Stanbury, his wife and her sister. The couple’s teenage daughter has been located, according to media reports. Allais said the bodies were found at opposite ends of the residence where fire and gunshots erupted about 8 a.m. Wednesday. Autopsies will be conducted.
“We’ve also removed other evidence, including guns,” Allais said without elaborating. When asked about the number of firearms, he paused and would only say it was a “quantity.” One large explosion that occurred during the fiery standoff apparently was caused by an acetylene tank in the home.
Allais wouldn’t comment on any current ties, if any, Stanbary may have had with antigovernment or white supremacist groups in southwestern Washington, the nearby Portland metropolitan area, or elsewhere.
After a similar standoff between Stanbary and Bonner County, Idaho, deputies was defused in 1992, authorities seized a grenade launcher, a sawed-off shotgun, six AK-47 assault rifles, almost two dozen other rifles, three handguns, several shotguns, a flak jacket and thousands of rounds of ammunition from his residence. It was not immediately clear why he wasn’t charged with federal firearms violations in that incident, which resulted in him serving 90 days in jail on a misdemeanor.
The Clark County sheriff’s supervisor wouldn’t publicly speculate on a motive behind Wednesday conflagration. “We suspect we know the reason why this occurred, but that’s not going to be released anytime soon,” Allais said.
In various media interviews, neighbors of the Stanbarys said they believe the family was experiencing financial difficulties. There also were reports that child welfare workers went sent to the home a year ago.
Thursday was the 27th anniversary of the armed standoff between another iconic white supremacist hero – Robert J. Mathews – and FBI agents on Whidbey Island, about 180 miles from Washougal. Matthews, who headed the infamous terrorist group The Order, was killed in that shootout and remains a hero to the radical right.
But authorities do not suspect a connection. “The information we have at this point would eliminate any correlation with an anniversary event,” Allais said.