A husband, wife and their 18-year-old son were found dead of apparent gunshots.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
WINLOCK – The three members of the Walter family who authorities believe died as a result of a murder-suicide were considered thoughtful neighbors who somewhat kept to themselves and weren’t familiar to law enforcement until Tuesday night’s discovery at their Winlock-area home.
Rodney Walter, 57, Cathy Lee Walter, 65 and their 18-year-old son Devon Walter, along with their family pets, were found dead of apparent gunshots at their two-story log cabin on the 300 block of Frost Road.
An adult daughter from Tacoma who normally spoke or texted with her mother daily drove to the house when she hadn’t heard from her mother after a couple of days, Lewis County Sheriff’s Steve Mansfield said yesterday.
Mansfield said he had no idea what might have sparked the tragedy, and neither did the daughter.
“They seemed to be a family that kept in contact with each other,” he said.
It wasn’t a home known to the sheriff’s office as a drug house or an address they went to for domestic violence calls or anything like that, Mansfield said.
“That’s what’s so strange about this,” he said. “They were not even on our radar as a family with problems.”
The sheriff’s office has not said which one of the three they think fired the shots, although by yesterday afternoon, they had a “very good idea” of who they think it was, Mansfield said.
“We’ve got several other pieces of this put together, but nothing we can share at this point,” the sheriff said.
Neighbor Dave Boyer said yesterday he thought they’d lived on the gravel road six or seven years, a place where the next house might be a quarter of a mile away.
“They were alright, they were nice people,” Boyer said. “They’d wave and say hi.”
Rodney Walter had a small trucking company. His loaded rig was parked near the family’s home, leading Boyer and his friend Marty Russell to speculate about who did or didn’t pulled the trigger.
“One and one adds up to two,” Boyer said. “He was leaving on a run, why would he have a load on his truck?”
The home sits in a rural area of the county east of Interstate 5 and not far from Lewis and Clark State Park.
An American flag flew from the porch and tie-died curtains covered an upstairs window of the vacant house yesterday afternoon. A small sign in front noted the property was certified wildlife habitat.
Cathy Walter had a duck pond, according to neighbors and goats in the back which – unlike the three dogs and cat – were not shot dead, Boyer pointed out.
Devon Walter was remembered as a “little feisty” by Boyer. “To the best of my knowledge, he didn’t go to public school,” he said.
Devon Walter was briefly a student in the Toledo School District, a long time ago, according to the district superintendent.
“The system doesn’t show he was enrolled anywhere in the state,” Superintendent Sharon Bower said yesterday. “I don’t know if he was enrolled in another state, or what.”
The young man attended for three weeks in 2003, when he would have been in middle school, Bower said.
Neighbor Tim Sweeney recalled Devon when he was younger coming to his place and asking if he could do work for him.
While he didn’t know them well, the Walters were the kind of neighbors who help each other, Sweeney said.
He recounted a time when his truck broke down and Rodney Walter stopped, crawled under it and got it going for him. He laughed when remembered a day when Cathy Walter asked for help in rounding up her ducks.
“They stayed to themselves,” Sweeney said, adding that many of those who reside on the hill live that way.
Autopsies were scheduled to take place this morning.
Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod said however, he didn’t expect any surprises.
McLeod released the names this morning, noting the official identification of the victims is pending signatures from family members.
Read “Winlock family and pets shot dead in suspected murder-suicide” from Wednesday March 16, 2011, here