Port Angeles man expected to plead guilty to murder

Plea, sentencing set for Monday

Matthew Wetherington

Matthew Wetherington

PORT ANGELES — A 36-year-old Port Angeles man is on the verge of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Matthew Timothy Wetherington is scheduled to plead guilty Monday to two counts of premeditated, aggravated first-degree murder in the July 6, 2019 deaths of his wife and her three children ages 9, 6 and 5.

The change-of-plea and sentencing hearing is at 8:30 a.m. Monday before Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden.

A status hearing had been set for Friday and trial for June 14, 2021.

Aggravated first-degree murder occurs when there was more than one victim and when the murders are the results of a single act by a defendant.

It carries a mandatory life-in-prison sentence without the possibility of parole or release.

Wetherington will not benefit from a sentencing standpoint by pleading guilty.

“It’s an individual choice that every accused person gets to make,” Port Angeles lawyer John Hayden, representing Wetherington, said last week.

Wetherington, who had recently married Kambeitz, was charged July 10, 2019 with four counts of premeditated, aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree arson.

Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, filed a motion Wednesday to amend the criminal complaint, eliminating the arson charge and reducing the murder charges to two, the first covering the deaths of Valerie M. Kambeitz, 34, and Lilly Kambeitz, and the second, Emma Kambeitz and Jayden Kambeitz.

Wetherington is a registered Level III sex offender with a lengthy criminal history including crimes with sexual motivation, according to newspaper accounts.

He set fire to his family’s Welcome Inn RV Park residence in Port Angeles west of the city and fled the carnage, according to court records.

He was arrested without incident later July 6 at a Lincoln Park campsite less than a mile from his home.

“I don’t understand how I could do something like this,” Wetherington said after his arrest, according to court records.

“I deserve to be locked up.”

Three witnesses said they saw him flee the residence following a loud boom.

They said they saw flames coming from the home, including one who identified Wetherington as the sex offender whose criminal history had been made known to RV park occupants through a flyer recently distributed by the Sheriff’s Office.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined gasoline and kerosene were present in the trailer’s master bedroom where the bodies were found, police and the King County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Autopsies indicated that Kambeitz and her children may not have been alive when the fire was set, Prosecuting Attorney-Coroner Mark Nichols said Friday.

“Trauma occurred prior to the trailer being set on fire,” he said.

More than 100 mourners gathered at a vigil for the Kambeitz family two days after they died.

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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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