Contributed photo
                                Eric A. Kulp.

Contributed photo Eric A. Kulp.

Shaw death investigation continues

A Shaw Island resident who is a person of interest in his wife’s death is still hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with self-inflicted wounds almost one month after a standoff with police.

Eric A. Kulp, 44, was detained by the Skagit and Whatcom County officers after a brief standoff in the Marblemount area of Skagit County on April 13. He had suffered serious self-inflicted knife wounds to his neck and abdomen.

The San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office is preparing to file charges of unlawful imprisonment against Kulp in connection with the death of his wife, Abigail Jane Finney, 38. Additional charges will be considered once Kulp is in custody. He is expected to be released from the hospital soon, said Sheriff Ron Krebs.

Finney’s body was found April 5 in a minivan on a Shaw property where she lived with Kulp, whose whereabouts were unknown at the time. His name and photograph were released to the media and law enforcement in the surrounding areas. Kulp formerly had the last name of Tubbs.

Gaylord, who is also the county coroner, said a determination of Finney’s cause of death will await the completion of a toxicology report and an autopsy by a medical examiner.

Timeline of events

According to the certification for determination of probable cause, on Nov. 29, 2017, Finney’s mother called the sheriff’s office to request a welfare check (when officers visit a home to assess the wellbeing of someone) for her daughter after she did not join her family as planned for Thanksgiving on Nov. 23. Family members reportedly received text messages from Finney’s phone after the missed dinner, but they were skeptical that she had sent them due to the content and that she normally had daily contact with her mother, who lives on San Juan Island. Finney’s regular conversations with her mother “abruptly” ended after Nov. 22.

A special deputy went to the Blind Bay Road property on Shaw to check on Finney on Nov. 29. Kulp, who was home, allegedly told him that his wife had gone to an unknown rehab facility.

On Jan. 22, 2018, Finney’s family requested an additional welfare check because they still had not heard from her. On Jan. 23, a deputy and sergeant went to Finney’s residence, where they searched the house, unlocked buildings on the property and looked into the van through the windows, but found nothing amiss. They met Finney’s brother at the property, and he told them Kulp had allegedly threatened to harm Finney in the past and that Kulp had told him he had not heard from his wife.

On March 21, a detective spoke with Kulp’s stepfather, who lives in Arizona. He said he was speaking with Finney on Nov. 22 when their conversation was cut short. He reportedly heard her arguing with someone, and then the phone went dead. He had not heard from her since, and they historically had spoken four to five times per day.

On March 23, the detective spoke with the owner of the property where Kulp and Finney lived. The landowner said Kulp sent her a text message on March 13 that stated he’d had a brief conversation with Finney and she was “doing well.” On March 27, the detective contacted Kulp’s last known employer, Rosario Assisted Living in Anacortes. The administrator showed him a text message from Kulp’s phone on Nov. 23 at 12:13 p.m. that stated his wife had killed herself earlier in the day. On April 5, the sheriff’s office executed a search warrant at the Shaw property. Deputies found a body concealed in the locked minivan registered to Kulp. An examination the following day confirmed the remains were those of Finney.

Background on the case

According to the special deputy’s follow-up narrative, the deputy has known Finney for 15 years and interacted with her regarding vehicle accidents, reports of DUIs and domestic abuse and welfare checks.

In 2016, he learned that Finney was living with Kulp. The deputy responded several times that year to the Blind Bay Road property after Finney’s family called with concerns of domestic violence and coercion by Kulp. In early 2017, the deputy heard the two had married in Las Vegas. In the spring of 2017, he transported Finney to a safe house after receiving a call from her family that Kulp was keeping her in the home against her will.

On Oct. 2, 2017, the deputy received a call from Kulp, who was on the mainland but concerned Finney may have overdosed on pain medication. He performed a welfare check and discovered Finney and a man together at the residence. When Kulp later called the deputy, he said Kulp appeared “unconcerned” about his wife’s health and began asking if Finney was having an affair. The deputy did not disclose to Kulp what he found in the home during the welfare check.

The officer visited the property again on Nov. 29 after Finney’s mother called for a welfare check. He found no one home and saw no signs of habitation. To his knowledge, the vehicle behind the house has not been moved since October.

Since November 2017, the deputy has passed Kulp on the road and made a civil service call to the house for debt collection. The report reads, “On each occasion, I have asked him if he has heard from or seen Finney. His response is always nonchalant and unconcerned. He says she ‘left’ him and went to rehab for drug and alcohol treatment.”