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William Lee LEMBCKE

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Juvenile (16) - Parricide - Necrophilia - Incest
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: December 23, 2000
Date of arrest: 7 days after
Date of birth: 1984
Victims profile: Robert H. Lembcke, 49; Diana L. Lembcke, 43; Jolene A. Lembcke, 18; and Wesley J. Lembcke, 11 (his parents and hsi two siblings)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Colville, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on August 27, 2001
 
 
 
 
 
 

He shot his parents and his sister and brother at their home, then took their bodies to a nearby road in the family pickup.

Was arrested by deputies investigating the deaths, then admitted in a written statement to killing his parents and two siblings.

 
 

William Lee Lembcke

According to court documents, family annihilator William Lembcke killed his family after a confrontation with his father over secretly videotaping his 18-year- old sister, Jolene, while she undressed and showered.

On December 23, 2000, Lembcke, 16, shot to death his parents, Robert and Diana Lembcke, his sister and his 11-year-old brother Wesley in their home in Colville, Washington. The suspect also admitted having sex with his sister after killing her. Her half-nude body was found by sheriff deputies in a roadside ditch with the rest of the family.

In court, Lembcke's lawyer attempted to have the confession and most of the other evidence against him thrown out on grounds that he suffered "diminished mental capacity" when he gave statements to officers and authorized them to search the family home.

Lembcke's trial on four counts of aggravated first-degree murder is to start August 20. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole. Although he is being tried as an adult, state law wouldn't allow him to be executed because he is younger than 18.

Detective Loren Erdman said in a search warrant affidavit that Lembcke is believed to have made a second videotape of himself masturbating while watching the video of his nude sister in the shower. Erdman says Lembcke had no reason to believe anyone outside his family knew about "his sexually deviant recordings" when he committed the murders. Apparently Jolene Lembcke told her boyfriend, Dylan Simpkins, as well as her parents about finding the video in the family's new video camera December 21. Simpkins approached detectives January 2, after they had already searched the Lembcke's rural home a dozen miles southwest of Colville. Simpkins reportedly told officers that Jolene Lembcke showed her parents a video that showed her showering and then showed William Lembcke masturbating while watching a duplicate copy of the shower video. Simpkins said she showed the video to her parents and then erased it, but he didn't know whether the duplicate video was found or erased.

According to detectives Wesley Lembcke was the only family member William Lembcke "had no reason to be angry with," and Wesley was the only victim to be killed by a single shot in the head. All the other victims were shot several times. Police were alerted by Diana Lembcke's brother, Andy Davenport, that everyone in the family except William were missing. When deputies found William at the house he claimed at first that the rest of his family had gone to California to visit a sick relative. Then he broke down in tears when they found what appeared to be a blood stain showing through fresh paint on the kitchen ceiling.

On 27 august 2001, Lembcke was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his parents and his two siblings. The troubled teen showed little emotion during most of the trial but sobbed openly during the sentencing phase. Deputy Stevens County Prosecutor David Bruneau applauded the verdict and sentence.

Mayhem.net

 
 

16-year-old arrested in quadruple murder

Komo 4

December 31, 2000

STEVENS COUNTY - A 16-year-old boy was arrested Saturday after sheriff's deputies found the bodies of his parents and his sister and brother on a rural road near this community about 60 miles north of Spokane.

William L. Lembcke was booked into the Stevens County Jail for the investigation of first-degree murder, Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer said.

The sheriff's office identified the family as Robert H. Lembcke, 49; Diana L. Lembcke, 43; Jolene A. Lembcke, 18; and Wesley J. Lembcke, 11.

The cause of the deaths was not released.

Deputies said they arrested William Lembcke after they interviewed him and found evidence linking him to the crime in his home.

Officers said they believe the four were killed at their home about 8 miles northwest of Addy and then taken to a nearby rural road.

The sheriff's office said relatives notified the authorities after the family members had not been seen for five days.

 
 

Boy confesse to killing family

Seattle Insider

January 1, 2001

A 16-year-old Addy boy admitted in a written statement to killing his parents and two siblings, a Spokane television station reported Saturday.

William Lembcke could face up to four counts of first-degree murder. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Investigators believe the four were shot December 23rd at their home, then taken to a nearby road in the family pickup.

 
 

Sheriff's office says teen confessed to killing family

January 3, 2001

ADDY - A 16-year-old boy arrested in the slaying of his parents and two siblings has confessed to the crimes, the Stevens County Sheriff's office says.

William L. Lembcke was being held in the Stevens County Jail in the shooting deaths of his father, Robert H. Lembcke, 49; his mother, Diana, 43; his 18-year-old sister, Jolene, and his 11-year-old brother, Wesley.

Their bodies were discovered Saturday, covered in snow on the side of a rural road near Addy, a small community about 60 miles north of Spokane.

Sheriff's Officer Aaron Davis confirmed on Sunday reports that William Lembcke had confessed, though he said details were not available. Sheriff Craig Thayer would say only that deputies noticed something amiss when they interviewed William Lembcke at the family's home on Marble Valley Basin Road, and that they learned while interviewing Lembcke at the sheriff's office that the bodies had been dumped northwest of Addy off Naff Road.

The sheriff's office was releasing no further information on Monday, a dispatcher said.

Lembcke is expected to make his first court appearance Tuesday, and he could face four counts of first-degree murder, Davis said.

Sheriff's investigators believe the shootings occurred Dec. 23 at the family home, and that the bodies were taken in the family pickup truck to Naff Road.

A neighbor and relatives notified the sheriff's office after family members had not been seen for five days.

Relatives gathered Sunday at the home, an unfinished two-story building without siding. They declined comment, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane reported. There was no answer Monday at the Addy phone number listed for Robert Lembcke.

William Lembcke had a juvenile record, and there had been recent turmoil in the family, Thayer said.

"It does appear there was some anger and some arguments that have occurred, not just recently, but over some period of time," he said.

The teen had registered at Colville Senior High School two months ago, after having been home-schooled for the past year, Principal Chuck Salina said.

Salina remembered William Lembcke as a student at Fort Colville Elementary School, where Salina also had been principal.

"He did some juvenile-type stuff but didn't exhibit any of the type of anger that would lead to something like this," Salina told The Seattle Times. "This just shocked me. Whatever was going in his head or in the family, I sure didn't see any of that in school."

Jolene Lembcke, a senior at Colville High, "was a terrific kid and very well liked by her peers," said Salina, whose own children attend the school. "They think this is a real tragedy, too."

Robert Lembcke was an independent logger who owned his own truck and loader, said Dave Lembcke, a relative and retired U.S. Forest Service forester who lives in Colville, about 20 miles north of Addy.

"We used to meet sometimes in the forest while working," said Lembcke, who described Robert Lembcke as an "OK guy."

"We always considered them such a nice family," said Robert Lembcke's aunt, Laura Lembcke of Curlew, south of Addy.

 
 

Inside William Lembcke's Mind

What could drive a 16-year-old to kill his family?

Many people around the Inland Northwest are asking that very question in the wake of the shooting deaths of four members of the Lembcke family in late December in the small town of Addy north of Spokane.

The alleged killer is William Lembcke, the family's 16-year-old son.

Doctor Michael Manz, who has been a child psychologist for more than twenty years, says while he doesn't know the details about William Lembcke's private life he does know he is a very angry teenager in need of serious help.

According to Stevens County Prosecutors, Lembcke admitted to shooting and killing his father, mother, brother and sister; a disturbing act that has everyone asking the question why.

"It's very unusual to kill your parents, but it's even more unusual to kill the entire family," Manz said.

Lembcke's older brother, who is 24 and was not at home at the time of the attack, survived.

Dr. Manz can only speculate what triggers might have led Lembcke to allegedly taking a deer rifle and shooting his parents, brother and sister on Dec. 23.

"A lot of anger, just a massive amount of anger, being very isolated, being unattached, being very alone, somehow he made the decision the best way out was to kill everyone," Dr. Manz said.

Manz suggested that perhaps the teen hadn't been happy with his family life, and ended it by taking his anger out in his home and not someplace else, like against friends or classmates.

"To feel some connectiveness to feel they're needed and important and part of a family, you don't destroy things you're a part of," Dr. Manz said.

Manz's comments were reinforced by school administrators in Colville, where Lembcke and his siblings attended school this fall. Administrators said that Lembcke was a quiet, non-disruptive student.

"He did some juvenile-type stuff but didn't exhibit any of the type of anger that would lead to something like this," Colville High School Principal Chuck Salina said. "This just shocked me. Whatever was going in his head or in the family, I sure didn't see any of that in school."

On Tuesday, Lembcke was ordered held over without bail during his first court appearance in Colville Superior Court. He is scheduled to be formally charged on four counts of murder during an arraignment next Friday.

Meanwhile, a memorial service has been scheduled for this Saturday at 10 AM at Colville High School.

 
 

Two guns used to kill boy's family

COLVILLE - The parents, brother and sister of a 16-year-old boy accused of killing them were shot with two different guns, an autopsy concludes.

Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer said investigators are trying to determine the significance of two weapons being used in the shooting deaths.

The investigation continued Thursday with a search of the pickup truck William L. Lembcke allegedly used to move the bodies.

Lembcke, who sheriff's deputies say confessed to the killings, is being held without bail in the Stevens County Jail for investigation of murder.

Lembcke will be arraigned Jan. 12. His lawyer has asked for a psychiatric evaluation for him.

Thayer and county Prosecutor Jerry Wetle said that from statements made by Lembcke and from autopsy evidence, it appears Lembcke's father was shot first, then other members of his family died in various rooms of their home near Addy, The bodies of Robert Lembcke, 49, his wife, Diane Lembcke, 43, and their children, Jolene Lembcke, 18, and Wesley Lembcke, 11, were found early Dec. 30 buried in a snowbank along a road about two miles from their home. They were killed sometime between Dec. 23 and Christmas Day.

An autopsy showed Diane Lembcke had been shot with both a .308-caliber rifle and a .22-caliber weapon, while the others had been shot with a .22-caliber. Most of the shots were to the head, Wetle said.

Sheriff's deputies say they found the bodies with directions William Lembcke gave them after admitting the shootings.

Lembcke allowed deputies to search the house, then broke down in tears when they found what appeared to be a blood stain showing through a fresh coat of paint on the kitchen ceiling, Deputy Paul Murray said in court documents.

Investigators have details of the slayings from Lembcke's statements, but still aren't satisfied they know the motive, Thayer said.

"He's given us a statement, and we're still trying to develop an explanation," Thayer said.

 
 

Teen cites dispute over chores in slayings of parents, siblings

ADDY - A big pile of firewood sits just outside the door to the Lembcke home in this rural community.

An argument over that firewood left 16-year-old William Lembcke facing four counts of aggravated first-degree murder, accused of killing his parents, his big sister and his little brother.

"This is such a tragic domestic violence situation," Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer said Thursday. "It's not an easy situation for any community to deal with."

Lembcke's confession provided the motive, though a mundane dispute over household chores hardly seems sufficient to provoke such mayhem.

The account is chilling: "The defendant told the officers his dad was mad at him for not helping get firewood and then the defendant got mad and when his dad went into the shower, he loaded the guns," according to the affidavit of probable cause.

According to autopsy reports, the victims were all shot in the head at close range sometime between Dec. 23 and Christmas.

The affidavit adds that "shortly after the defendant armed himself, he shot his dad in the hallway, then he shot his mother in the kitchen, then his sister in the living room, and his brother in the living room as he was lying on the floor."

Robert Lembcke, 49, and brother Wesley Lembcke, 12, suffered "contact" wounds, meaning the rifle was placed directly against their heads. Robert Lembcke was shot three times in the head, Wesley once.

Diana Lembcke, 43, was shot three times in the head with two different rifles and four times in the right arm, shoulder and hands, possibly as she tried to ward off what was coming. Jolene Lembcke, 18, was shot twice in the back of the head and once in the back.

"When asked why he shot his mother, sister and brother, the defendant stated he didn't know, then agreed he shot them because they were witnesses," the affidavit says.

Lembcke told deputies he made an extensive effort to cover up the crime - painting some walls that had been spattered with blood and flesh, and dumping the bodies in a roadside ditch 2 miles from the home. He told inquiring relatives that his family had gone to California to visit a sick uncle.

But all of the family vehicles were at the house, along with wallets and purses.

There was blood all over the house, and in the snow outside.

When the family was reported missing Dec. 29, deputies interviewed Lembcke at the house, where they observed blood on the floors, on the hot water heater, the clothes washer and dryer, on ceilings and pictures.

"William started sobbing and shaking, putting his hands over his face," they wrote.

The house is in a wooded area in this unincorporated community about 60 miles northwest of Spokane, within view and shouting distance of several neighbors in the rolling hills of rural northeastern Washington.

Robert Lembcke was a self-employed logger. His wife suffered from multiple sclerosis and rarely left the house, according to published reports. Jolene, who did much of the housework, was a senior at Colville High School.

William Lembcke had registered there two months ago, after having been home-schooled for the past year, Principal Chuck Salina said.

"He seemed very close to his sister," Salina said. "I never heard a derogatory word."

An older brother, Clinton Lembcke, 24, lived at another location near the family home.

"The feelings haven't really kicked in," Lembcke, 24, told KREM-TV of Spokane. "It doesn't seem like reality to me."

Clinton Lembcke said he has been comforted by relatives as he goes about the work of preparing funerals and other tasks.

"I worked for my dad for five years, for his own business," Clinton Lembcke said. "We were like best friends."

The baby-faced William is a big kid, 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, according to court documents.

He also has a police record. The shootings occurred just two months after he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft for taking $25 worth of rolled coins and a silver bar valued at around $166 from the home of neighbors.

William Lembcke, who had run away from home at the time the thefts occurred, was sentenced to 12 months of community supervision and 40 hours of community service at the nearby Dog Patch animal shelter operated by neighbor Joyce Tasker.

Tasker described him as a "pleasant, somewhat quiet" boy who had confided feeling unwanted at home. She recalled an incident a couple of years ago in which he became angry for reasons she never learned, and beat the bark off a tree with a hammer.

Relatives don't know or aren't saying what might have triggered the rampage over the holidays.

"They were trying to deal with problems in the family," said Sam Lembcke, William's uncle. He did not elaborate.

William Lembcke said little during his brief court appearance Tuesday, and several times appeared on the verge of tears. He was ordered held without bail.

He was charged as an adult Thursday and is scheduled to enter a plea next Friday.

If convicted of aggravated murder, Lembcke faces life in prison without parole. Minors are not eligible for the death penalty on that charge.

Court-appointed defense attorney Patty St. Claire hinted at a possible insanity defense when she arranged to have a mental-health professional examine Lembcke at county expense.

The killings were discovered after Mrs. Lembcke's brother, Andy Davenport, called the sheriff's office shortly before midnight Dec. 29 to report the family missing.

 
 

16-year-old pleads innocent to murdering family

King5.com

January 12, 2001

COLVILLE - A 16-year-old boy accused of murdering his parents, sister and one of his brothers pleaded innocent to four counts of aggravated first-degree murder Friday.

The boy's lawyer said she will use an insanity defense.

William Lembcke is accused of shooting his family members to death at their home in Addy, 50 miles north of Spokane, on Dec. 23, following a dispute over household chores. Prosecutors say he confessed to the killings.

Stevens County Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson set trial for June 11.

At the 10-minute hearing Friday, Lembcke answered questions about his birthdate and the spelling of his name.

Lembcke's lawyer, Patricia Jo St. Clair, filed a motion asking for a copy of an audio tape of the boy's statement to police.

County Prosecutor Jerry Wetle said afterward that the insanity plea was not surprising and would not affect how the case is prosecuted.

"It doesn't change things at all. It's just a little more preparation," he said. "We'll be ready to go." If convicted, Lembcke faces a possible sentence of life without parole. He is being tried in adult court, and because of his age would not face the death penalty.

Wetle said Lembke would be returned to a regional juvenile holding facility at Medical Lake, near Spokane.

According to autopsy reports, the victims were all shot in the head at close range. An affidavit of probably cause adds that Robert Lembcke, 49, and Wesley Lembcke, 12, suffered "contact" wounds, meaning the rifle was placed directly against their heads.

Robert Lembcke was shot three times in the head, Wesley once.

Diana Lembcke, 43, was shot three times in the head with two different rifles and four times in the right arm, shoulder and hands, possibly as she tried to ward off what was coming, the affidavit said. Jolene Lembcke, 18, was shot twice in the back of the head and once in the back.

The family's other son, Clinton, 24, no longer lives at the home and was not present at the time of the shootings.

The bodies were found covered with snow in a roadside ditch 2 miles from the home. Lembcke allegedly told inquiring relatives that his family had gone to California to visit a sick uncle, and painted some walls in an attempt to hide blood stains.

 
 

Confession to family slayings is challenged

Lawyers for teen defendant fault Miranda procedure

Seattlepi.com

Friday, March 2, 2001

COLVILLE -- Lawyers for 16-year-old William Lembcke, accused of murdering his parents, sister and a brother in a dispute over chores, want his taped confession thrown out.

Court-appointed defense attorneys Paul Wasson and Patty St. Clair also want to suppress all evidence that deputies gathered when they searched the Lembcke family home.

A transcript of a tape-recorded statement Lembcke gave officers was placed in the Stevens County Superior Court file during a hearing Wednesday over defense objections.

Lembcke told officers that his angry father had threatened to kick him out of the house for not helping gather firewood.

Pressed for a better explanation for the shootings, Lembcke said in the transcript that his reasons included "not being able to go anywhere," "my dad being mean," and "working all the time with my dad."

"I have to do a lot of stuff for my mom, and my sister's never home," he added.

Lembcke faces trial in June on four counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the deaths of his parents, Robert and Diana Lembcke; his 18-year-old sister, Jolene, and his 12-year-old brother, Wesley, on Dec. 23.

If convicted, Lembcke faces a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.

County Deputy Prosecutor Dave Bruneau presented evidence that officers repeatedly advised Lembcke of his constitutional rights and got signed statements that he understood them.

But Wasson suggested that officers should have read Lembcke his rights sooner as they investigated the reported disappearance of the rest of his family.

Judge Larry Kristianson put off the hearing until April 23 so defense lawyers can present psychiatric evidence. Lembcke has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity or diminished capacity.

Sheriff's Detective Ben Paramore revealed at the hearing that Jolene Lembcke was nude from the waist down and Robert Lembcke was covered with just a towel when officers found their bodies in a roadside ditch.

No explanation was offered in court.

The transcript showed Lembcke's father was angry because the youth wasn't helping gather firewood. Lembcke adds in the transcript that his father "was threatening to kick me out and send me back to Martin Hall."

Martin Hall is a juvenile-detention center near Spokane. Lembcke had been there two months earlier, when he pleaded guilty to burglarizing a neighbor's home and stealing $25 in coins and a silver bar.

"I got mad and, when he went in the shower, I loaded the guns," Lembcke said in the transcript.

He said he sat on his father's bed and thought about whether to open fire when his father got out of the shower.

After he shot his father in the back of the head, Lembcke said his mother "just couldn't say anything, scared, I guess."

So were his sister and brother, Lembcke said.

Both of them tried to hide on the living room floor, he said.

 
 

Shower videotape behind killings!!!

Teen's punishment for videotaping sister in shower led him to kill family

Thursday, June 7, 2001

COLVILLE -- A confrontation over a teen's secret videotaping of his sister in the shower led to the killing of four family members, court documents allege.

Search warrant documents say that authorities believe 16-year-old William Lembcke killed his parents, sister and little brother in December after he was disciplined for secretly videotaping the 18-year-old girl in the shower.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday on motions by Lembcke's lawyers to have a confession and other evidence thrown out because he suffered "diminished mental capacity" when he gave statements to officers and authorized a search of his home in this northeast Washington town.

Lembcke originally told authorities he shot his sister, parents and 11-year-old brother Dec. 23 because he was angry that his father had yelled at him for not helping to gather firewood.

The search warrant documents indicate he didn't tell Stevens County sheriff's detectives about the videotape, but admitted having sex with his sister's body after killing her.

Lembcke is charged with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents, Robert H. Lembcke, 49, and Diana L. Lembcke, 43; sister Jolene A. Lembcke; and brother Wesley J. Lembcke.

Investigators following Lembecke's directions found the bodies on Dec. 30, buried in a snowbank along a road about two miles from their home. Jolene Lembcke's body was nude from the waist down.

Trial is scheduled Aug. 20, with a jury from Okanogan County.

If convicted, Lembcke could spend the rest of his life in prison. The death penalty is not an option because he is younger than 18.

Stevens County sheriff's Detective Loren Erdman said in a search warrant affidavit that Jolene Lembcke told her boyfriend and her parents about finding an illicit recording in the family's new video camera Dec. 21.

The boyfriend, Dylan Simpkins, said Jolene Lembcke showed her parents a video of her in the shower and a second video showing William Lembcke masturbating while watching a duplicate of the first video.

She erased the video after showing it to her parents, Simpkins told detectives. He didn't know if a duplicate existed.

Deputy Stevens County Prosecutor David Bruneau said officers found the camera and some videotapes, but court rules prohibit him from disclosing their contents.

Simpkins told detectives that Jolene Lembcke was so upset about the videotape that she stayed overnight at Simpkins' home in Chewelah.

When she returned home from work the next evening, William Lembcke had the opportunity to kill his family members, the documents say.

When detectives went to the home Dec. 30, they found William Lembcke, who told them his family had gone to California to visit a sick relative.

Lembcke allowed deputies into the house and broke down in tears when they found what appeared to be a blood stain showing through fresh paint on the kitchen ceiling. He then provided directions on where to find the bodies, investigators say.

 
 

Teen's punishment led him to kill family

Associated Press

June 8, 2001

COLVILLE, Wash. ---- A boy accused of killing four family members last December opened fire after he got caught videotaping his teen-age sister in the shower, court documents allege.

Authorities believe 16-year-old William Lembcke shot his parents, brother and 18-year-old sister after the girl found the videos and Lembcke got punished.

Lembcke originally told authorities he shot his family because he was angry that his father had yelled at him for not helping gather firewood.

 
 

Lembcke convicted, sentenced teen found guilty of slaying family

The Spokesman-Review

August 28, 2001

A jury quickly convicted 16-year-old William Lembcke on Monday of murdering four members of his family, and a Stevens County judge sent him to prison for the rest of his life.

Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson had no choice under law - and no qualms - about sentencing Lembcke to life without the possibility of parole.

"Deep inside, son, you're a monster, and you deserve the punishment that a monster should receive," Kristianson said.

 
 

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON

No. 20500-2-III

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent
v.
WILLIAM LEE LEMBCKE, Appellant

Appeal from Superior Court of Stevens County

Date filed: 08/27/2001

KATO, J. - William Lembcke, a juvenile, was convicted of four counts of aggravated first degree murder.  Claiming the court erred by refusing to suppress his statements to police and evidence discovered during a search of the family home, Mr. Lembcke appeals.  He also contends the court abused its discretion by excusing a juror without first holding a hearing.  We affirm.

In December 2000, four members of the Lembcke family were reported missing. The Stevens County Sheriff's Office contacted William Lembcke in an attempt to locate his family.  Mr. Lembcke eventually confessed to killing his father, mother, brother, and sister.  The State charged him with four counts of aggravated first degree murder.  He was convicted on all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.  This appeal follows.

Mr. Lembcke first claims the court erred by admitting evidence obtained through a search of the Lembcke home.  Andy Davenport was the brother of Diane Lembcke, William's mother.  Mr. Davenport had not seen four of the members of the Lembcke family for several days, even though he shared a driveway with them. 

On December 29, 2000, William Lembcke told Clint, his older brother, who did not live at home, that the family had gone to California to visit a sick relative.  Clint asked other relatives if they knew anyone in the family who was sick, but none did.  Both Andy and Clint went into the Lembcke home where they saw, among other things, the wallet of Robert Lembcke and Diane's purse.  Mr. Davenport contacted the police and asked them to check things out.

Deputies Paul Murray and Duane Johnson conducted a 'welfare check' in the early morning hours of December 30, 2000.  Clerk's Papers at 99.  When the deputies arrived at the Lembcke home, William was trying to leave in a pickup.  Deputy Murray pulled into the driveway first, parked his car, and was followed by Deputy Johnson and then Mr. Davenport.  The manner in which these three cars were parked effectively blocked the driveway.

Mr. Lembcke had three passengers in his pickup.  Deputy Murray told him they were concerned about his family and their whereabouts.  Mr. Lembcke said he did not know where they were, but the deputies could go into the house to look around.

Deputy Murray asked if he could look in the bedroom of Mr. Lembcke's parents.  He consented.  The deputy found the parents' wallet and purse and identification.

While Deputy Murray was looking in the bedroom, Deputy Johnson noticed what looked like blood on the hot water tank and washing machine.  Given the circumstances, the deputies conferred.  They decided to ask Mr. Lembcke to sign a consent form and read him his Miranda1 warnings as a precautionary measure.  Mr. Lembcke consented to a further search and did not ask for a lawyer.

Upon further investigation, Deputy Johnson saw blood on a light fixture and what appeared to be fresh paint on the ceiling with dark stains showing through.  He also saw bits of flesh on a kitchen ornament.

The deputies decided to go outside and speak with the passengers in the pickup.  They then saw blood in the bed of the vehicle.  At this point, they arrested Mr. Lembcke and stopped searching the home.

Before trial, Mr. Lembcke moved to suppress the evidence found during the search.  After a hearing, the court determined the police were acting in their community caretaking function and Mr. Lembcke was not seized until he was arrested.  Accordingly, suppression was unwarranted.  Mr. Lembcke challenges this ruling.

We review the trial court's denial of a motion to suppress by examining whether substantial evidence supports the challenged findings and whether those findings support the trial court's conclusions of law.  State v. Ross, 106 Wn. App. 876, 880, 26 P.3d 298 (2001), review denied, 145 Wn.2d 1016 (2002).

Mr. Lembcke's argument centers on whether the deputies exceeded the scope of the 'community caretaking function' exception to the warrant requirement by 'seiz{ing}' him when they first arrived at the house.  Br. of Appellant at 21.

The community caretaking function allows for limited invasion of Fourth Amendment privacy rights when necessary to render aid or assistance or make routine checks on health and safety.  State v. Kinzy, 141 Wn.2d 373, 386, 5 P.3d 668 (2000), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1104 (2001).  An officer may invoke the community caretaking exception if (1) he subjectively believes that someone likely needs assistance for health or safety reasons; (2) a reasonable person in the same situation would believe the same; and (3) he has a reasonable basis to associate the need for help with the place he searched.  State v. Johnson, 104 Wn. App. 409, 415, 16 P.3d 680, review denied, 143 Wn.2d 1024 (2001).  Whether an encounter under this exception is reasonable depends upon a balancing of the individual's interest in freedom from police interference against the public's interest in having the police perform a community caretaking function.  Kinzy, 141 Wn.2d at 387.

Clearly, the deputies here responded to the Lembcke house under the community caretaking function.  Responding to a report that the members of the Lembcke family had not been seen for several days, the deputies were trying to locate them to see if they were safe.  The requirements for the exception were met.  The initial contact at the Lembcke home was proper.

Mr. Lembcke claims the deputies exceeded the scope of the community caretaking function exception because they seized him when they arrived at the house.  The test for whether a seizure has occurred is a purely objective one, looking to the actions of the law enforcement officer. State v. Young, 135 Wn.2d 498, 501, 957 P.2d 681 (1998).  The person asserting a seizure has the burden of proving a disturbance of his or her private affairs.  Id. at 510.

A person is seized if he or she is restrained by physical force or show of authority.  Kinzy, 141 Wn.2d at 388.  The relevant inquiry is whether ''a reasonable person would have felt free to leave or otherwise decline the officer's requests and terminate the encounter.''  Id. (quoting State v. Thorn, 129 Wn.2d 347, 352, 917 P.2d 108 (1996)).

'Examples of circumstance that might indicate a seizure, even where the person did not attempt to leave, would be the threatening presence of several officers, the display of a weapon by an officer, some physical touching of the person of the citizen, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled. . . .  In the absence of some such evidence, otherwise inoffensive contact between a member of the public and the police cannot, as a matter of law, amount to a seizure of that person.'

Young, 135 Wn.2d at 512 (quoting United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554-55, 100 S. Ct. 1870, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497 (1980) (citations omitted)). The only restraint or show of authority was the manner in which the deputies parked their cars in the driveway.  The evidence does not show that the deputies approached Mr. Lembcke in a threatening manner.  There was no display of a weapon.  There is no indication the deputies' actions suggested that compliance with their requests would be compelled.  In these circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt free to leave or to decline the officers' requests and terminate the encounter.  The court properly concluded Mr. Lembcke was not seized.

Under the community caretaking function exception, if an individual has not been 'seized,' balancing an individual's interests against the public's usually results in favoring action by the police.  Kinzy, 141 Wn.2d at 387.  If a person has been seized, his or her interest in being free from police intrusion is no longer minimal.  Id. at 388.  When conducting a balancing test in these situations, courts must cautiously apply the community caretaking function exception because there is a real risk of abuse in allowing even well-intentioned stops to assist.  Id. Because Mr. Lembcke was not seized, his personal interests were minimal. Therefore, the public's interest in having the police exercise their community caretaking function outweighed Mr. Lembcke's own personal interests.

Under the community caretaking function exception, a police officer may conduct a noncriminal investigation so long as it is necessary and strictly relevant to the performance of this function.  Id. at 388.  The noncriminal investigation must end when reasons for initiating the contact are fully dispelled.  Id.  That is exactly what happened here.  The deputies entered the house in an attempt to determine where the Lembcke family might be.  In doing so, they noticed blood stains and other signs that a crime might have occurred.  Their actions were within the scope of the community caretaking exception.  The court did not err by denying the motion to suppress.

Mr. Lembcke next contends the court erred by admitting statements he made to detectives.  The deputies initially read Mr. Lembcke his Miranda warnings as a precautionary measure around 1:37 a.m.  After noticing blood stains in the house and pickup, they arrested Mr. Lembcke.  Around 4:00 a.m, Detectives Paramore and Baskin arrived and arranged to have Mr. Lembcke transported to the Stevens County Jail.  There, he was again advised of his rights and he waived them.  After taking his oral statement, detectives recorded a statement in which Mr. Lembcke revealed what had happened at his house; how he killed his family; and where he had taken the bodies.  After the detectives went to recover the bodies, they noticed some discrepancies between the evidence and Mr. Lembcke's statements.  The detectives reinterviewed him at that time.

Before a court will admit a defendant's custodial statements, the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of those rights prior to making the statement to police. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966); State v. Braun, 82 Wn.2d 157, 160-61, 509 P.2d 742 (1973).

Mr. Lembcke asserts that he was in custody from the moment the deputies arrived at his house.  However, he was not seized until the officers detained and arrested him.  At this point he received Miranda warnings.  Mr. Lembcke concedes that the warnings as read were proper. Therefore, the only issue is whether Mr. Lembcke's waiver of those rights was effective.

An accused may waive his Miranda rights if the waiver is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.  State v. Bradford, 95 Wn. App. 935, 944, 978 P.2d 534 (1999), review denied, 139 Wn.2d 1022 (2000).  When considering the validity of a waiver, two determinations must be made.  State v. Corn, 95 Wn. App. 41, 57, 975 P.2d 520 (1999).  'First, the relinquishment of the right must be voluntary in that 'it was the product of a free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation, coercion, or deception.''  Id. at 57-58 (quoting Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 421, 106 S. Ct. 1135, 89 L. Ed. 2d 410 (1986)).  'Second, the waiver must be made with 'full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it.''  Id. at 58 (quoting Burbine, 475 U.S. at 421).

Whether a juvenile has effectively waived his Miranda rights also depends upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation.  Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 725, 99 S. Ct. 2560, 61 L. Ed. 2d 197 (1979); Dutil v. State, 93 Wn.2d 84, 87, 606 P.2d 269 (1980). These circumstances include the juvenile's age, intelligence, background, and his capacity to effect a voluntary waiver.  State v. Jones, 95 Wn.2d 616, 625, 628 P.2d 472 (1981).  'If a juvenile understands that he has a right, after he is told that he has that right, and that his statements can be used against him in a court, the constitutional requirement is met.' Dutil, 93 Wn.2d at 90.

Review of the record indicates that Mr. Lembcke's waiver of his rights was valid.  When he confessed, he had received the Miranda warnings twice.  The detectives who gave him the warnings the second time went over each right with Mr. Lembcke, making sure he understood.  Two psychiatrists testified Mr. Lembcke had the capacity to understand his rights.  Although it had been a long night, the detectives testified Mr. Lembcke was oriented, alert, and attentive.  The State met its burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Lembcke's waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.  The court did not err.

Mr. Lembcke also contends the court improperly excused a juror.  Jury selection began in Okanogan County on August 16, 2001.  The court explained to the jury pool why a jury was being selected from Okanogan County rather than Stevens County.  The court also explained the time commitment involved and indicated it was aware the circumstances might make serving impossible for some.

J. B. was selected as Juror No. 3.  During selection, she did not voice any problems or concerns she had about being able to serve.

On August 20, the court informed counsel and Mr. Lembcke that it had excused Juror No. 3 because her father became ill over the weekend.  An alternate juror would replace her.  Over Mr. Lembcke's objection to the ex parte dismissal of this juror, the trial began.  We review a court's decision to remove a juror for an abuse of discretion.  State v. Ashcraft, 71 Wn. App. 444, 461, 859 P.2d 60 (1993).

RCW 2.36.100 permits the court to excuse an otherwise qualified potential juror for reasons of undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, public necessity, or any other reason deemed sufficient by the court.  CrR 6.5 allows the court to replace a juror with an alternate juror, before the submission of the case to the jury, if the juror becomes unable to serve.

Although CrR 6.5 does not specifically require a hearing, some sort of formal proceeding is indeed contemplated by the rule.  Ashcraft, 71 Wn. App. at 462.  But such a proceeding is only required when the case has already gone to the jury and the alternates have been temporarily excused. State v. Johnson, 90 Wn. App. 54, 72, 950 P.2d 981 (1998).  The purpose of a formal proceeding is to verify that the juror is unable to serve and to demonstrate the alternate is still impartial.  State v. Jorden, 103 Wn. App. 221, 227, 11 P.3d 866 (2000), review denied, 143 Wn.2d 1015 (2001).

Because the case had not yet gone to the jury, a formal proceeding was not required.  Moreover, any error was harmless.  The jury had not heard any evidence at the time Juror No. 3 was excused.  The juror was replaced by an alternate.  There is no showing that excusing this juror prejudicially affected Mr. Lembcke's trial.  See State v. Easter, 130 Wn.2d 228, 242, 922 P.2d 1285 (1996) (If the court is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt any reasonable jury would reach the same result absent the error, the error is harmless.).

Affirmed.

A majority of the panel has determined this opinion will not be printed in the Washington Appellate Reports, but it will be filed for public record pursuant to RCW 2.06.040.

 
 


Lembcke's home.

 

Lembcke's grave.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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