Person of interest identified in homicides

Man held on weapons charge after ammunition purchase at pawn shop

PORT ANGELES — Authorities are investigating the possible involvement of an Agnew-area man in the shooting deaths of his father and his father’s girlfriend.

Both bodies were found Thursday in the front seat of their vehicle near their home.

Convicted felon Christopher Lee Haltom, 40, is a person of interest in the murders of Clay Lee Haltom, 60, and Clay Haltom’s girlfriend, Bryana Emila Presler, 43, Brian King, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office chief criminal deputy, said Monday.

Christopher Haltom, a longtime Clallam County resident, lived at the same Wild Currant Way address as his father and Presler, according to court documents. He purchased bullets for a handgun four hours before the bodies of his father and Presler were found, the documents said.

Haltom was arrested Friday for investigation of illegal possession of a firearm and is in the Clallam County jail on $25,000 bail.

“He is believed to potentially be involved in the homicides that we are investigating,” King said.

“He is definitely a person of interest.”

King said there is no danger to the community that the couple’s killer remains at large.

The victims’ bodies were discovered in the front seat of their car across the street from their Wild Currant Way home, their vehicle resting against a tree, King said. The vehicle colliding with the tree was reported at 3:43 p.m.

“It was a very short distance, not even across the street,” King said.

Investigators said it appears both died of gunshot wounds to the back of the head. Autopsies are expected to be completed this week, Prosecuting Attorney-Coroner Mark Nichols said Monday.

Christopher Haltom was arrested a short distance from the home on a warrant for investigation of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

A deputy on his way to the crime scene saw him walking in the area and arrested him on the warrant, King said.

The warrant stemmed from Haltom allegedly possessing a Ruger semi-automatic pistol while visiting a Port Angeles pawn shop to purchase ammunition for a .22-caliber long rifle at 11:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a probable cause statement on the illegal gun possession charge filed Monday.

King said the pistol will take the .22-caliber bullets.

“That’s why he’s a person of interest,” he said Monday. “That’s one piece of a number of different pieces.”

The transaction, six hours before the bodies were found, was recorded on the Port Angeles pawn shop’s surveillance cameras.

“Haltom had the pistol in his hand(s) when he approached the counter where employee … was standing,” according to the statement.

“Haltom placed the firearm on the counter along with his Washington State ID and inquired about purchasing ammunition for the firearm.”

Superior Court Judge Brent Basden set Haltom’s bail Monday at $25,000 and a 1 p.m. Wednesday hearing for the filing of a charge, determining there was probable cause for Haltom’s arrest and to hold him for up to 72 hours.

Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender, representing Haltom, said Haltom and his family have been living at the same address for at least 30 years.

“The gentleman is not accused of utilizing the weapon,” Gasnick said.

Haltom has seven felony convictions, according to the probable cause statement.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Johnson said Haltom has more than 20 failure-to-appear warrants between 1999-2021 and several felony convictions.

“It’s concerning that with Mr. Haltom’s significant felony history that he is purchasing ammunition from a pawn shop for a gun that he is illegally possessing,” he said.

“I am not familiar with Mr. Haltom’s extended ties to our community. I do know that his father and his father’s girlfriend, I believe, were recently murdered in our area.”

Basden said his biggest concern is the degree of likelihood that Haltom would commit a violent crime.

“While the court does believe that when somebody — these are allegations, I understand — but that when somebody attempts to purchase ammunition for a gun, you use it. That’s why you would purchase it.”

According to a mental competency evaluation filed Jan. 5 on an active case, Haltom’s felony convictions include three residential burglaries. He has seven gross misdemeanor convictions including two fourth-degree assaults and seven misdemeanors, three for resisting arrest.

Two cases that led to extended stays at Western State Hospital for evaluations and competency restoration included charges of burglary, malicious mischief and possession of a stolen motor vehicle occurring between July 13-25, according to the report, which concluded Haltom understood the legal proceedings against him and could aid in his defense.

Haltom has a history of auditory hallucinations, delusional beliefs and paranoia, according to the evaluation.

He had been taking psychotropic medication, according to the report.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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