The suspect in the apparent beating death of a 58-year-old woman in a well-kept mobile home park near Montesano was being brought back to Grays Harbor County from Yakima late Thursday to face murder charges.
Acting on a bulletin from Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s deputies, Yakima authorities late Wednesday afternoon arrested 56-year-old Eugene Elkins in the Wapato area of the Yakima Valley.
Undersheriff Rick Scott said the woman, Kornelia Engelmann, appears to have suffered homicidal violence, but the cause of death still is under investigation. Scott said investigators believe Elkins, 56, killed Engelmann and then fled in her 1998 green Ford Taurus.
The car was found by the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office and Elkins was arrested a short time later at a farm without incident, Scott said.
Elkins, who has no prior felony record, was known to have connections to Eastern Washington, Scott said. It was not clear what motive he may have had for killing Engelmann or how long she had been living at the residence on Clemons Road. Scott said Engelmann previously had been living in the Ocean Shores area.
“She had been living with him for a few months,” Scott said.
Neighbor Linda Johnson said she woke up Wednesday to yellow police tape being stretched across her yard in the 55-and-over Country Estates mobile home park near Montesano.
The mostly retired residents say they never have had any crime on the well-kept grounds, so learning that a murder investigation was under way next door shocked Johnson and other neighbors.
Johnson said she heard the commotion outside shortly after getting up at about 8 a.m.
“I opened the curtains and the Sheriff’s Office was coming down the street in four or five cars,” she said. “I watched them go around the corner and stop. We are used to seeing ambulances, but nothing like this.”
Although the two exchanged small talk when working outside in their yards, which have to be maintained according to standards set by the park, Johnson described Elkins as “a little different from most of the people here. He was not what I would call social.”
Neighbor Fred Ouellette said he knew Elkins had friends in Eastern Washington but he noted that he rarely saw Elkins drive. Ouellette lives immediately next door to Elkins, and said he often knew the girlfriend was living there but rarely saw her.
He said Elkins moved into space #58 in early 2011.
“There were no problems but I didn’t converse with him much at all,” Ouelette said. “I really didn’t like the guy. He was peculiar, let’s just say that.”
Ouellette and Johnson said they heard no signs of a struggle or a fight coming from their neighbor’s home.
“I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend,” Johnson said.
After deputies began processing the scene, Scott said, they found no evidence of a gunshot or cuts from a bladed weapon, but did find “significant trauma to her body consistent with a physical assault.”
Autopsy results released Thursday show Engelmann died by multiple blunt force injuries to the head and torso with internal bleeding. The manner of death is homicide, said Lane Youmans, deputy coroner.
“There was some forensic evidence that we found at the scene that may be evidence of what occurred here, but at this point it would be premature to discuss that,” Scott said.
Scott said authorities had been notified about the death by a friend who had come by to check on the woman and deputies were working to confirm whether the woman actually lived at the home or not.
“It’s our understanding that she’s been staying here, but for how long or how often, I don’t know,” Scott said.