Tamarack Lane homicide

Police say they are seeking the whereabouts of Jacob GONZALES, seen here in March 2017.

Island County Sheriff's Office

A $1 million warrant has been issued for the arrest of Jacob Gonzales, the person of interest in the recent beheading on Camano Island.

Island County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday afternoon that the silver 1998 Honda Civic he was driving was found abandoned on Interstate 5 in Yreka, California, and impounded by California Highway Patrol. It belonged to the victim.

“We have located the vehicle and are in the process of bringing it back to process for evidence,” Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said Monday afternoon.

Island County Prosecutors Office has filed charges on Gonzales for five counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of motor vehicle theft. A $1 million warrant has been issued for Gonzales’ arrest. He remains a person of interest in the homicide. 

The investigation began when police were notified March 3 of the discovery of a body in a earthen bunker off Tamarack Lane on the south end of Camano Island.

“We’re trying to protect the integrity of the investigation,” Brown said, explaining that he could not release more details at this time. “I’m listening to my detectives about what comes next.”

Weapons and ammunition were discovered inside the bunker and have since been collected by a team of investigators who descended on the quiet, wooded property. Brown declined to discuss who found the bunker or specifics about the firearms found inside. He said details will be released when they aren’t critical to the investigation.

According to a news report by KING-TV, a group of business partners were surveying the property on Saturday to possibly buy the land when they discovered the body and bunker.

Island County Coroner’s Office on Wednesday identified the victim as Katherine Cunningham, 26. Findings from the autopsy determined the cause of death as “homicidal violence with decapitation.”

Cunningham died at least several days before authorities discovered her remains, according to police. Detectives said the bunker was dug into the hill and contained a cache of supplies, firearms and ammunition. Nearby sat a dilapidated camper and vehicle.

Based on the evidence, it appears that the victim was specifically targeted and this was not a random act, police said.

According to various social media posts, Cunningham had recently worked as a caregiver in the Stanwood area.

Cunningham was a resident of Los Banos in Merced County, near the center of California, Los Banos Police Cmdr. Jason Hedden told the Los Banos Enterprise newspaper. Gonzales also is a resident of Los Banos.

Both served three years in the U.S. Air Force reserves in California, according to military records. Gonzales left the service in April 2014, and Cunningham left in February 2015.

The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to ask the public’s help in finding Gonzales — a 34-year-old Hispanic male, 5-feet 9-inches tall, 150 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes. 

Anyone with information about Gonzales or his recent whereabouts is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency and/or Detective Ed Wallace through the dispatch center at 360-679-9567 or Tips@co.island.wa.us.

Gonzales is believed to be armed, and police ask that the public not approach him. He is a “person of interest” in the investigation at this time, authorities said.

Gonzales was arrested Sept. 29, 2012, in Merced after a standoff with a SWAT team, according to the Los Banos Enterprise newspaper. Gunfire had been reported in the neighborhood. A handgun was found during a search of the residence and shell casings and live ammunition were in the backyard. Gonzales was arrested on suspicion of assault with a firearm, reckless discharge of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to social media posts, Gonzales had moved to Washington state by Jan. 24, 2016 — when a friend on his Facebook page asked him how he was, Gonzales wrote, “Great my life is so different now moved to Washington workn in fish industry its cool.”

On Saturday, a handful of mourners held a candlelight vigil at Freedom Park.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

journalist (graphics, reporter, editor)

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