NORTH BEND, Wash. – Deputies blasted the roof off a mountainside bunker and found a body believed to be that of accused double murderer Peter Keller inside the hideout, stuffed with guns and ammo, where he had apparently holed up after killing his wife and daughter.
A pistol and a large quantity of blood were seen near the body, said King County Sheriff Steve Strachan. Investigators later determined that the man had died of a single gunshot to the head.
The body was found at about 9:45 a.m. Saturday after a SWAT team was able to maneuver in with explosives and blow a portion of the roof off the heavily fortified bunker, said King County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West.
Deputies then entered the bunker, where they discovered a body which they said appeared to be Keller. It appeared as though he had died some hours before, West said.
Investigators later found at least 13 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a large gun scope, two bullet-proof vests, a generator, propane, gas cans, binoculars and Keller’s ID during a search of the underground complex.
Officials said it appeared Keller, 41, had spent eight years building the elaborate hideaway near Rattlesnake Ridge in the Cascade foothills.
King County sheriffs’ officials said a bomb disposal unit combed through the bunker after the body was discovered, but found no signs of booby traps or explosives.
Crime scene investigators then entered the hideout to begin their work. Once inside, they found a multi-level underground complex, complete with kitchen, storerooms and multiple camouflaged entries.
Ultimately the bunker will be destroyed so that it does not present a danger to hikers or campers in the area, officials said.
“There’s been a huge sigh of relief,” King County sheriff’s Sgt. Katie Larson said. “Our people are out safe, and the trails are now safe for the community to use.”
Deputies and a SWAT team surrounded the bunker Friday after figuring out its location using landmarks in photos that Keller left behind on a computer hard drive in his burning home. He apparently thought the computer drive would be destroyed in the blaze, but fire crews extinguished the blaze before it was damaged.
SWAT teams spent a grueling seven hours on the mountainside Friday morning, virtually crawling over dangerously steep terrain slick with mud from recent rains, before they found the bunker at about the 1,350-foot level. A number of officers were treated intravenously for dehydration, and one broke his ankle, said sheriff’s Sgt. Cindi West said.
After long shifts, the officers appeared exhausted, their faces smeared with camouflage paint, as they rode down the mountain in sport-utility vehicles or armored carriers to be replaced by fresher teams.
After surrounding the elaborate hideout on Friday, deputies first attempted to flush out Keller using tear gas, but that effort was unsuccessful – either because the gas did not penetrate the bunker or because its occupant was wearing a gas mask.
SWAT officers who kept watch on the bunker through Friday night said they saw lights going on and off, and they believed its occupant had everything necessary to remain inside for a long time.
Keller had not been seen since the fire at his North Bend-area home on Sunday led responders to discover the bodies of his wife and daughter.
The King County medical examiner determined Kaylene Keller, 18, and her mother, Lynnettee Keller, 41, both died from gunshots to the head before the fire started. Their bodies were found in their bedrooms.
Court documents described Keller as a loner who has a survivalist mentality and has been stockpiling supplies in the woods.
If he had lived, Keller would have faced charges of first-degree murder and first-degree arson.
The fire at Keller’s home was stopped before the house burned down, and authorities said they found seven gasoline cans placed in different areas of the home.