Bellingham Police detectives are continuing to talk to family members, friends and neighbors to figure out what drove Kevin Rowe, 45, to kill his wife, Tanya, 43, and their 5-year-old son, Benton in their Cordata neighborhood home Sunday night.
Kevin Rowe followed the heinous acts by killing himself.
Police have acknowledged they may never know the answer.
Detectives declined to release further details, stating, “we will continue to be respectful of the family and friends so I won’t be answering your question. Sorry, and I hope you understand our reasoning,” according to Lt. Danette Beckley, the department’s spokeswoman.
Whatcom County Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel completed the autopsies of Tanya, Benton and Kevin Rowe on Wednesday.
Tanya and Benton Rowe’s deaths were ruled as homicides. Kevin Rowe slit both their throats, Goldfogel said.
Kevin Rowe died of “asphyxia by exclusion of oxygen” after he placed a bag over his head, and his death was ruled a suicide, Goldfogel said. The events happened in “rapid succession” in the family’s home without anyone else present. No outside call for aid was made Sunday night. Their bodies were found Monday afternoon, Goldfogel said.
Tanya Rowe was found in her bedroom, Benton Rowe in his bedroom and Kevin Rowe in the garage, according to Bellingham Police Lt. Mike Johnston. A large kitchen knife was recovered in the home, which authorities believe Kevin Rowe used to kill his family.
Ryan Rickerts, a training partner and fellow member of the road biking community, remembers Kevin Rowe as a source of inspiration for himself and others within the tight-knit cycling community.
Rickerts, who had come to Bellingham to study at Western Washington University and got involved in the cycling community around 2003, said Rowe was the fastest racer in the group and was an aspiring domestic professional, meaning Rowe only raced in the U.S. He remembers meeting up on Sundays at 10 a.m. for “Tony’s ride,” where the group would race from Tony’s Coffee House in Fairhaven up Chuckanut Drive. It was a no mercy ride that tested the strengths of each athlete, Rickerts said.
“Kevin was like the leader. Kevin was the fastest guy, and as an aspiring competitive cyclist, we all looked up to him. He was the fastest guy in town basically,” Rickerts said.
Rickerts said Rowe would help organize a yearly ride to the top of Mount Erie in Anacortes and back. Rowe was likely training 20 hours a week or more during his peak, Rickerts added.
But Rickerts also acknowledged the dark side of training that intensely, and said there are many long, lonely, dark nights as a competitive road cyclist.
“It’s a very unique sport, and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s pretty hard to succeed,” Rickerts said. “He was a dedicated athlete, he was an inspiration to others with his discipline. He probably just needed some friendship. We should reach out to people that we’re concerned about if they don’t seem that they have the social support or if they seem lonely or depressed.”
Rickerts eventually lost touch with Rowe, but would see him and his family periodically throughout town. Most recently, he said he saw Rowe a week prior to the incident. He meant to say hi, but wasn’t quick enough, but remembers thinking he would reach out the next time he saw Rowe.
“Just more of a love your brother, love your neighbor kind of moral is I think what we need. I think we just have to be kinder to people and compassionate because you don’t know that they’re on the edge like this,” Rickerts said. “If I saw him again this week, I definitely would have been like ‘Kevin, how are you?’, and now it’s too late.”
The welfare-check call
Officers were sent to check on the family at 525 Spring Vista Place around 3 p.m. Monday. Tanya Rowe’s mother, who lives next door, told a dispatcher she heard a loud noise Sunday night and hadn’t seen her daughter since, according to emergency radio traffic. The traffic indicated the mother was concerned for Tanya Rowe’s well-being and said it was unusual for her not to leave the house.
At least nine police cars, one fire truck and one ambulance were on scene by 3:45 p.m., and shortly after, crime scene tape was placed around the home.
Detectives secured a search warrant and investigated the scene.
Tanya and Benton
Tanya Rowe was the Bellingham School District’s executive director of communications and community relations.
“We are heartbroken by this news,” district Superintendent Greg Baker said in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Tanya Rowe was with the school district for 13 years, according to the district’s statement. Prior to that, she worked with Western Washington University’s communications department and was a master’s student, and lecturer in the Journalism Department at the university.
“We’re devastated by the news of Tanya’s death. Tanya was a hardworking, dedicated and resolutely kind human being,” Paul Cocke, a Western spokesman, said Tuesday.
Prior to Western, Rowe worked as a reporter for The Bellingham Herald.
Benton was a kindergartner at Wade King Elementary.
“Benton was a bright and curious child who loved being outside and had many friends throughout the Bellingham community,” Baker said. “Their deaths are a profound loss to our school district and to our larger community.”
The Bellingham School District’s counseling and support team were on site Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as at the district office. Support will also be available after the holiday weekend.