Charges boosted to first-degree murder in Sudden Valley shooting

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 31, 2014 

SUDDEN VALLEY - Three spent waddings from a double-barreled shotgun were found at the scene of a slaying in the Sudden Valley area, suggesting the gunman reloaded after shooting his stepfather, according to new charging papers.

Authorities believe Joshua Aaron Adams, 41, fired the first shot at a downward direction, while Steven Roy Siebert kneeled on the kitchen floor at 69 Lake Louise Drive, according to prosecutors. An autopsy showed two more shots were fired into his dying stepfather's back.

Adams has been charged with murder in the first degree, on the grounds he took more than a moment to premeditate the killing. An empty box of shotgun shells was found upstairs.

"It is believed that in the middle of the crime, Joshua Adams went upstairs to get ammunition to reload the shotgun," Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey wrote in the charges filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Another son came home to find Siebert, 60, in the kitchen around 6:15 p.m. Jan. 21. He told deputies his brother, Joshua, had a history of mental illness.

Adams didn't get along with the family. An exact motive hasn't been made public, but longstanding disputes may have boiled over that day in an argument about finances, Richey said.

So deputies searched for Adams. He wasn't at his home down the street, on Marigold Drive. A family dog, a red Subaru, the gun and shotgun shells were missing, too. (Neither the gun, stored in a downstairs bedroom, nor the shells in the upstairs loft had been locked up.)

The red Subaru was seen four hours later at a Shell station off of Highway 20, near La Conner. The driver got out with a golden retriever-type dog, then stole a dark Ford pickup that was refueling at the pumps, according to the charges.

An Island County sheriff's sergeant found the truck near Coupeville. State troopers tried to halt the fleeing truck with spike strips near Greenbank, near the middle of Whidbey Island. But Adams drove more than 14 miles on torn-up tires and sparking tire rims, according to charges filed in Island County. He was arrested near Clinton. The dog and a stolen handgun were recovered from the truck.

Adams told detectives: "I'm a criminal, and I just killed my dad," according to charging papers.

Last week, a diver with the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office found the 20-gauge shotgun in Lake Louise, not far from the home.

At first, Adams was transferred to Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder. As the investigation unfolded - and a third shotgun wadding was found beneath the oven in the kitchen - the charge was boosted to murder in the first degree. Superior Court Commissioner Edwin Simmers set bail at $1.5 million.

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