Thursday, August 18, 2005

Deborah Palmer

Yes, another case is now requiring a closer look by "law enforcement." Oak Harbor police are investigating a possible link between Duncan and the unsolved murder of this little girl in 1997. She has been on the Cellar's Timeline Map as "possible crime #2" due to the keen eyes and minds of Cellar Dwellers like Scubagirl and JoJoFox.

On Saturday, August 13th, the Whidbey News-Times first ran this story in their print edition. It appeared on their website on the 16th: Child killer studied for link to Palmer by Jessie Stensland.

Scubagirl did a fantastic job organizing the details and providing a timeline to the Oak Harbor police. Friday, August 5th, Scubagirl sent her detailed timeline e-mails to the Oak Harbor police and the Whidbey News-Times:

"Admundson recently sent an e-mail message to the Oak Harbor police noting the similarities between Palmer’s mysterious disappearance and murder and the child-murder cases Duncan has been tied to.

She even provided a timeline that puts Duncan in Seattle on March 26, 1997, the day Palmer disappeared on her way to Oak Harbor Elementary School. Five days later, a beach walker found her body washed up at Strawberry Point in North Whidbey.

Admundson knows that Duncan had a polygraph test in Seattle the day Palmer disappeared. If the bloggers or authorities can figure out what time of day the test was given, they can rule him in or out. "

Deborah was 7 years old when she disappeared on her way to Oak Harbor Elementary School around 8:35 a.m. on March 26, 1997. She only lived a couple blocks from the school, and was walking alone.

Her mother discovered she was missing after lunchtime, when she had brought Deborah's lunch to school and then went shopping. When she returned from shopping, an answering machine message from the school informed her that they couldn't give Deborah her lunch because Deborah was not in school.

Immediately a search was launched, complete with police, bloodhounds, volunteers and the Seattle media. The FBI entered the case on the 28th- even with a lack of evidence of an abduction across state lines- because Deborah was under the age of 8. Nothing was found until four days later, when a citizen found her backpack and jacket off Sleeper and Taylor Roads in a "small and somewhat obscure" gravel pit.

On Monday, March 31, shorthly before noon, her body was found washed up on a beach at Strawberry Point, east of Oak Harbor, by a retired fisherman who often walked the beach. Her body was partially-clothed in what this man said appeared to be walking shorts. The coroner ruled her death a homicide by asphyxiation, and although there was no evidence of a sexual assault, the crime was being investigated as a "sexually-motivated homicide." The coroner also said that she was killed the day she disappeared, or very soon after.

Leads poured in but nothing concrete: a stranger seen in the area, a vehicle driving erratically. Deborah's father and her mother's boyfriend were checked out, but were either in prison or jail when she disappeared. Residents were horrified that this could happen in their town, with no one seeing anything, there were reportedly many cars driving by the school at time of the morning... yet nothing. Was it a neighbor, someone they knew? Or was it a stranger without ties to the area? Like the stranger taking a road trip who showed up in Beaumont, CA asking a group of children to help him find his lost cat.

Earlier than Scubagirl's definitive August 5th e-mail to Oak Harbor police, several tips were e-mailed or phoned in to authorities in mid-July, concerning Duncan's involvement with the Deborah Palmer case. I know, as I was one of the "tipsters." Once I and the other tipsters got together and exchanged information, we found that we had all been met with an "OK, thanks. Aluminum foil is on sale this week at your supermarket, and be aware that the black helicopters are now blue" type of response. If we got any response at all. I wonder if this was because they knew of Duncan's polygraph appointment on March 26th, about 85 miles away in Seattle. But what time was that appointment, and where in Seattle?

I think Duncan was good at setting up alibis. Not a few people who read his blog pondered the handful of extremely detailed blog entries that cropped up from time to time- wondering why, exactly, he was so precise in detailing his whereabouts on these days. These entries stand out from the rest to my eye. The copius notes, receipts, lists, people and places and times... They read like crafted alibis.

And what better alibi than a polygraph appointment? Looking at a Mapblast driving route from Seattle (general) to the location of Oak Harbor Elementary School, it's only about an hour and a half drive. If Duncan's polygraph appointment was late morning or in the afternoon, he could have kidnapped and murdered Deborah and disposed of her body, and still made his appointment. (and was he late for that appointment?) Recall that he did fail that polygraph exam- concerning his "interaction with children."

The day Deborah's body was found was also the day Duncan high-tailed it out of town. On his way to Beaumont, CA, where five days later Anthony Martinez was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered by Duncan. His body was recovered 15 days later on a road leading to Joshua Tree National Park outside Indio, CA.

In the Cellar Forum discussion thread, JoJoFox pointed out Deception Pass State Park on Skagit Bay. We know Duncan has killed in and around wooded, secluded state and national parks. Deception Pass is a huge park, with the state land parcels distributed over several areas of the islands. I saw that a portion of the State Park is also about a mile from where her backpack and jacket were found- literally a straight shot up E. Sleeper Road from the intersection with Taylor Road and the gravel pit. Her belongings could have been tossed into this area on the ride out of the park toward Rte. 20, which leads off the island. Back to Seattle.

JoJoFox thought Deborah's body could have been put in the waters off the State Park and the currents brought her to rest on the beach at Strawberry Point. I absolutely agree with that. If her body was put in the water from the portion of Deception Pass State Park off E. Sleeper Road, it's only about 5 miles to the beach where she washed up. JoJoFox's research on the tides in that area also showed they are strong, and flow north to south, the direction from the State Park to the beach where Deborah's body was found.

Here is a satellite image from Google Earth looking south from the Deception Pass State Park shoreline to the Strawberry Point beach area where Deborah's body was found five days after she disappeared:

The yellow path I added is the approximate route Deborah's body would have taken had it been put in the water at the State Park.

Until we know the time Duncan was taking his polygraph examination in Seattle- and if he was late for it- he looks good for this one to me. And apparently looks good to the Oak Harbor police, too:

Oak Harbor Police Capt. Rick Wallace said detectives have been in contact with the FBI and Idaho police to see if it’s possible that Duncan could be Palmer’s killer.

“Anyone with an unsolved child murder case would be derelict, I think, in not contacting the FBI” about Duncan, Wallace said.

“We are going to jump all over it and see that comes of it,” he added.


Sheromom said...

Most of us who live in Oak Harbor feel pretty strongly that a family member or the boyfriend did this one. Even though the boyfriend was in jail at the time, he had only been in jail for a day. He was in jail for sexually assaulting his girlfriend's nine year neice (who lived in the same building). The police indicated that the crime was committed "early on". Perhaps a day earlier? The mother attended support group meetings for abused women. My daughter babysat her children, including Deborah, at these meetings. Interestingly, Deborah NEVER walked to school alone EXCEPT on this day, when she was supposedly running late. The route she would take to school has apartments and businesses. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to take a child from that area at that time of day without anyone noticing. Her mother was on welfare and yet took McDonalds to her daughter a couple of days before her check arrived. The school reported that the mother had NEVER taken her daughter in a lunch except this one day. And the mother was out partying within a short time of the death. Then, as soon as her boyfriend was out of jail, they got married and immediately moved out of town. The area where the backpack was found is a very obscure area and is not a place likely to be found by someone just driving through town. Pretty much the only people that travel those roads are the people that live on them. I would love to see whoever killed this child prosecuted. But I have a feeling that it isn't Duncan who did this one!

Lori R said...

I always did suspect the family as well. As a citzen of Oak Harbor at the time, you were right it just seemed fishy. My husband even helped in the search for her body.

However you are wrong, her mother did not immediately marry and move out of town. I saw her and her son at KMART several months later and she was still living in Oak Harbor. I asked her (or rather my friend did)if she was who we thought she was and she said yes. She produced a picture of her daughter and asked us to remember her face, and if we heard anything to report it to the police, as they had completely run out of leads and she was using her own resources to track the killer.

I do think the family is involved though, some how. And I think its sad that no anwers exsist and they haven't solved this yet.

I do remember buying new doors and window locks to protect myself and my 2 year old niece because my hubby went on cruise On March 29th that year and I was scared. It was a big shock for such a little town to have a kidnapping and then find out it was a murder. I even had the cops stop me walking and tell me that I should not be out walking alone (of course I looked very young and they thought I was a child! LOL)

I pray one day we get some answers.

angelica said...

The girl murdered was my older sister. I never had the chance to meet her. We was related by father. Sometimes I think about how nice it would have been to have an older sister but my thoughts are ruined by the fact that was murdered. I still hope to one day have the chance to meet my older brother