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A double-murder suspect described as having a “survivalist mentality” was found dead – an apparent suicide – over the weekend in a heavily fortified bunker he built on a hillside in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.
Peter A. Keller, a 41-year-old gun enthusiast and computer repairman, was charged Wednesday in the deaths of his wife, Lynnettee, and their 18-year-old daughter, Kaylene. The victims, along with the couple’s dog and cat, were found fatally shot April 22 in their North Bend, Wash., home, which had been deliberately set afire.
With that discovery, authorities began looking for Keller. They were aided by pictures of a survivalist bunker they found in his arson-charred family home.
Keller spent eight years building and supplying the two-story bunker hidden from sight on Rattlesnake Ridge, in the foothills of the Cascades, where he would frequently hike, investigators learned. A family friend told authorities that Keller had been preparing for the “end of the world,” the Seattle Times reported Sunday.
By Friday, after enhancing photos to identify landmarks and spending seven hours scouring the rugged, steep terrain, authorities found the “amazingly fortified” bunker, which had multiple entrances, dug into Rattlesnake Ridge not far from the family home in King County.
After seeing lights go on and off and smelling smoke come from the hideout, SWAT teams set up surveillance Friday night, unsure if the fugitive was inside the bunker or if it was booby-trapped.
After tactical officers called for Keller on bullhorns, they pumped in tear gas without results. Finally, on Saturday they set off explosives, allowing them to peel back the top of the 20-foot-long bunker and spot Keller’s body. He had apparently shot himself in the head with a handgun found nearby, deputies said.
After the body was discovered, tactical officers rappelled in from a helicopter to look for booby traps and explosives but found none.
“This isn’t a hole in the ground. It’s an elaborate structure,” King County Sheriff Steve Strachan told the Seattle newspaper.
Inside the bunker, investigators found 13 handguns and rifles, a powerful rifle scope, two bullet-proof vests, a laptop computer and various hard drives, a stockpile of ammunition in sealed bags, propane tanks, a generator and gasoline, food, water and a wood stove.
Authorities didn’t immediately disclose if Keller was associated with any antigovernment groups or militia-types organizations but were expected to closely examine the computer found in the bunker.