Murder suspect's text to friend: 'I have done something really really bad'

Sheriff's officials say this is the boat in which two people were found dead Wednesday off Orcas Island. The deaths are being investigated as a murder-suicide.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

BULLETIN: The Snohomish County Medical Examiner is expected by Monday to determine the cause of death of Albert Beutler, 39, and Rhan Rha, 39, who were found dead in the forward berth of Beutler's 36-foot powerboat on Wednesday in President Channel.

The case is being investigated as a murder-suicide; Beutler died at the scene of a bullet wound to the head. Rha had been dead for an undetermined time but her body showed no signs of a bullet wound or blunt force, Sheriff Bill Cumming said.

"The cause of death has not been determined," Cumming said of Rha. "There was nothing obvious in terms of gunshot and blunt force."

Cumming said investigators haven't determined where Rha died — whether it was on the boat or elsewhere. Beutler allegedly sent text messages to friends stating that he killed her and that he planned on committing suicide.

The Bellevue Reporter

A Bellevue man identified as 39-year-old Albert Beutler was found dead onboard a boat in President Channel off Orcas Island Wednesday in an apparent murder-suicide.

San Juan County Sheriff’s Office reported finding Beutler’s body along with an apparent female murder victim, 39-year-old Rhan Rha from Sammamish.

Thursday, an Eastside woman told the Bellevue Reporter that she had dinner with Beutler the night he apparently killed his girlfriend.

“He was here and it was just the two of us,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified. “I don’t know why he didn’t kill ME.”

Dispatchers put out information Wednesday morning on a man who was boasting about killing his girlfriend and texting pictures of a firearm. He was driving from Seattle to his workplace at Bellevue BMW, according to dispatchers.

The woman who had dinner with Beutler said she received one of the texts.

“I can’t make it for dinner,” the message read. “I’m really sorry to have gotten you involved in all of this. I have done something really really bad.”

The woman said she texted back to ask what Beutler had done. He responded: “I killed my girlfriend last night I’m sorry.”

Recalling dinner the night before, the woman said Beutler, “was so agitated and nervous.” But, she added, “I didn’t feel threatened.”

The Bellevue woman and Beutler were supposed to have dinner again on the night of the suspected murder-suicide.

The woman said Beutler was “extremely jealous” of his girlfriend.

Police used the woman’s help to locate Beutler’s car. She said another woman showed up with keys and documents for his parents.

“It was almost as if she had instructions in case he died,” Beutler’s acquaintance said.

Beutler was a service adviser at Bellevue BMW. He reportedly made death threats to either the dealership’s service manager or general manager, according to Adam Teague, a Jaguar Bellevue employee who heard accounts from BMW workers.

Bellevue Police surrounded the vicinity of the BMW dealership around midday on Wednesday. Teague said some of the officers were armed with assault rifles.

“He (Beutler) had made some threats about about going over there and harming some people,” said Bellevue Police spokeswoman Ofc. Carla Iafrate. “We went up there and set up a perimeter.”

Bellevue Police say Beutler texted approximately five of his friends about killing his girlfriend and about intentions to kill himself. The first 9-1-1 call from one of his friends came in around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, according to Iafrate.

Bellevue Police used Beutler’s cell phone signal to approximate his position. They notified outside law-enforcement agencies that a possible murder suspect was thought to be on his way to the San Juan Islands.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard, including a HH-65C Dolphin Helicopter from Port Angeles and vessels from Station Bellingham, responded to the reports.

The Coast Guard discovered Beutler on a 36-foot powerboat as it left Friday Harbor, traveling toward President Channel, off the westside of Orcas Island. The Coast Guard was joined by an additional vessel from Customs/Homeland Security.

San Juan County Undersheriff Jon Zerby said officers approached the boat and ordered Beutler to stay on deck, but he went below. A shot was heard shortly thereafter, Zerby said.

Officers boarded the boat and found the suspect alive but very seriously wounded, Serby said.

An attempt at CPR was made by Coast Guard EMT crewman, but the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 9-mm pistol was removed from the boat by police, according to Zerby.

A patrol vessel from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene and assumed jurisdiction of the investigation. Sheriff’s officers found Rha dead in the forward section of the powerboat. The female victim was believed to be Beutler’s girlfriend.

Rha appeared to have died some time prior to the discovery of her body, Zerby said. The location and cause of death is unknown.

“At this point, we don’t know how she was killed or where exactly it took place,” Zerby said. “Her death could have taken place in Bellevue or anywhere south leading to San Juan. We are trying to piece it all together.”

The boat was taken to Friday Harbor for body removal and investigation. The deceased will be taken to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner for post-mortem examination, Zerby said.

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