PORT ANGELES — Bail was set at $5 million Monday for a Port Angeles man accused of killing his wife and her three children and setting fire to their mobile home early Saturday.
Matthew Timothy Wetherington, 34, is suspected of killing Valerie Kambeitz, 34, Lilly Kambeitz, 9, Emma Kambeitz, 6, and Jayden Kambeitz, 5, at the Welcome Inn RV Park in west Port Angeles, investigators said in court documents.
Valerie, Lilly, Emma and Jayden Kambeitz are presumed to have died but the four sets of remains found in trailer No. 45 have not been positively identified.
“The case that we’re talking about here is horrific, egregious and the remains of potentially three children and one adult were found in the charred remains of the residence,” Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Monday.
“There is no more violent of a crime, and he is a substantial danger to the community.”
Superior Court Judge Brent Basden granted Devlin’s request for a $5 million bail for Wetherington based on flight risk and “substantial” community safety concerns.
The judge also found probable cause to hold Wetherington on four counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson.
Prosecutors will consider filing formal charges against Wetherington at his next court appearance at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Witnesses reported seeing Wetherington running from trailer after hearing a loud “boom” at about 2:30 a.m., Officer Jeffery Ordona wrote in the affidavit for probable cause.
The Port Angeles Fire Department extinguished the fire after it destroyed two mobile homes and multiple vehicles.
Wetherington was arrested later Saturday at a Lincoln Park campsite, Ordona said.
City police said Wetherington at times referred to Lilly, Emma and Jayden Kambeitz in the past tense after his arrest.
“I’m speaking of them in past tense because I presume that they are dead,” Wetherington is alleged to have said.
Wetherington told Port Angeles Police Detective David Arand that he loved his wife and kids.
A certificate of marriage filed with the state said Wetherington and Valerie Kambeitz were married May 4.
“I don’t understand how I could do something like this,” Wetherington is alleged to have said.
“I deserve to be locked up. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Local, state and federal investigators Monday continued to comb through the rubble of the burned trailer where the bodies were found.
The remains of four victims were found in the master bedroom.
“This is going to be a very tedious scene to process,” Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Jason Viada said in a Monday interview.
“I know that we will be continuing to process the scene for at least another 24 hours.”
Viada said he had “no information” on whether weapons were found in the trailer. He said he could not confirm whether an accelerant was used.
“That is one of the confirmations that will occur at the [state] crime lab,” Viada said.
Tanna Langue, a fire investigator from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, detected the presence of hydrocarbon in the master bedroom using a hydrocarbon detector, Ordona said in the probable cause statement.
Langue “also smelled what she recognized, based on her training and experience, as gasoline in the master bedroom area,” Ordona said.
Autopsies will be conducted by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The autopsies will reveal whether the victims died before or during the fire.
“That’s the big question,” Viada said.
Detectives found new camping gear purchased from the Port Angeles Walmart at Wetherington’s campsite at Lincoln Park.
Wetherington was seen on Walmart surveillance footage making an $809 purchase Friday, mostly camping and survival gear, hygiene products and food, Ordona said.
Detectives found a notebook at the campsite with an initial journal entry dated Friday that said: “Preparations are merely complete. Just need to last another 11 hours before it really begins.”
According to Ordona’s account, Wetherington asked himself why he was keeping a journal.
“Perhaps, one day, when I get captured, doctors of the mental health variety will read this journal, and perhaps help me figure out why I committed such tragedies three days ago,” Wetherington is alleged to have said in the same journal entry.
“All my mind keeps asking is ‘why?’ ‘why.’ One of the things that keep replaying in my mind’s eye is the first thing my wife said ‘What am I doing’ … ‘What am I doing?’
“Indeed, why did I do it?”
Wetherington is a registered sex offender who was convicted as a juvenile of first-degree child molestation in 1998, Ordona said.
He also had past convictions for first-degree burglary with sexual motivation, attempted first-degree robbery with sexual motivation, second-degree assault with sexual motivation and unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, Devlin said.
“He served a substantial period of time in the [state] Department of Corrections and has been a registered sex offender since such time,” Devlin said in the well-attended, 17-minute court hearing.
“His priors were — if there was a spectrum for sex offenses, this would be on the violent spectrum.”
Defense attorney Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender reserved argument on Wetherington’s condition of release, saying he needed time to speak with his client.
“We are of the mind that we’ll have a limited number of opportunities to make our presentation,” Gasnick said.
“We’d like our first opportunity to be well thought out.”
Should Wetherington post bail, he would be required to appear in court to address no contact orders and other conditions of release.
Statement from family friend
Holly Wright, a longtime family friend, gave a statement to reporters on behalf of the family after the court hearing.
“This has been a very, very crushing blow to the family,” said Wright, who has known the Kambeitz family since 1992.
“I can see it in the family’s eyes. This is really, really tearing them apart.”
A vigil for the victims was planned for 5 p.m. Monday at City Pier, where Valerie Kambeitz enjoyed spending time with her children.
“That was Valerie’s happy place,” Wright said.
“That’s where she loved taking her kids the most.”
Donations for the funerals can be made at firstbaptistpa.org. Select the option to “give” and use the drop-down menu to direct gifts to the “Fellowship Fund.” In the “notes” section you can write the name “Kambeitz.”
A GoFundMe campaign also has been set up for surviving family and funeral expenses at www.gofundme.com/f/kambeitz-memorial.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call 360-452-4545 and ask to leave information with a detective.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].