Police call Cordata deaths a homicide-suicide; victims identified

Bellingham Police release names of family found dead

Police have identified the three people found dead Monday afternoon in a Cordata neighborhood home as the victims of a homicide-suicide. Police identified the victims as Tanya Rowe, husband Kevin Rowe, and their 5-year-old son Benton.
Up Next
Police have identified the three people found dead Monday afternoon in a Cordata neighborhood home as the victims of a homicide-suicide. Police identified the victims as Tanya Rowe, husband Kevin Rowe, and their 5-year-old son Benton.

Bellingham Police have identified the three people found dead Monday afternoon in a Cordata neighborhood home as the victims of a homicide-suicide.

Lt. Danette Beckley said Tuesday the victims are Tanya Rowe, 43, her 5-year-old son Benton, and her husband and the boy’s father, Kevin Rowe, 45.

Beckley didn’t say whether a weapon was used or who was the killer. She said the public isn’t in any danger, and no suspect is being sought.

Around 3 p.m. Monday, officers were sent to check on the family at 525 Spring Vista Place. 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 firetruck and one ambulance were on scene by 3:45 p.m. Shortly before 4 p.m., crime scene tape was placed around the home.

Detectives found Tanya Rowe’s body inside her bedroom, Benton in his bedroom, and Kevin Rowe’s body in the garage, according to police Lt. Mike Johnston.

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.

Tanya Rowe worked with the school district for 13 years, according to the statement.

Tanya Kerstiens Rowe Bellingham School District Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

“Tanya was an amazing leader, a skilled communicator and a dear friend and colleague. She loved her friends and family deeply, especially her son Benton. She had an adventurous and brave spirit, which she passed on to her son, and they spent much of their free time hiking, biking, gardening and beach combing around the Pacific Northwest,” Baker’s statement said.

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.”

Tanya Rowe was known for the balance she kept in her life and her ability to stay present. She would approach her work with 100 percent dedication, but also reminded others that it was important to spend time with loved ones and to get out and do the things they enjoyed, said J.Marie Riche, who is a colleague brought in to support the communications department at Bellingham Public Schools.

“She brought that message into the workplace in a really beautiful way. … That’s pretty rare,” Riche said. “Tanya had the amazing ability to maintain perspective about the fullness of life.”

Before she worked with Bellingham schools, Tanya Rowe worked in the Office of Communications at Western Washington University from 1999 to November 2003 as the coordinator of Newsbureau Media. She was then a lecturer in the Journalism Department for the 2002-2003 academic year, according to John Thompson, a Western spokesman. She was also a student earning her master’s degree at that time. She went on to become the assistant director of public information from November 2003 to June 2004.

“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. “Tanya’s kindness and professionalism touched a lot of people at Western, where she is remembered with love.”

Before working at Western, Tanya Rowe was a reporter with The Bellingham Herald.

Carolyn Nielsen, a 20-year friend and former coworker of Tanya Rowe’s, said it was important to remember Rowe for the way she lived, not how she died, according to a Facebook post about Rowe Nielsen shared with The Bellingham Herald.

Nielsen recounted the story of how during her time as a reporter, Rowe covered the story of a mom with advanced-stage breast cancer that had three young girls. Rowe became close to the family and was in the room when the mother died, Nielsen said. After the woman’s death, Rowe and Nielsen baked Christmas cookies for the three young girls.

“Tanya was always a human being first, and a reporter second,” Nielsen wrote. “Tanya immersed herself in that story because she wanted people to understand the toll breast cancer takes on a family and she wanted those little girls to become adults and be able to see their mom as she had seen her.”

Nielsen said Rowe enjoyed the outdoors, biking and grew her own vegetables “for as long as I knew her - even when she and Kevin lived in a tiny apartment off Birchwood and she had a plot at the community garden.”

Nielsen said Rowe stayed positive through her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She chose to make a plan, gather resources and get help from friends and family.

Bellingham Police found three dead at 525 Spring Vista Place, where two patrol units were sent about 3 p.m. Monday to check on the welfare of a woman, her husband and child, according to police radio reports.

“She fought like hell and she made it. … She did things on her own terms, not out of a sense of ego, but because of her sense of commitment to doing the right thing, the best thing, no matter how much work was involved,” Nielsen said.

Kevin Rowe was known by many in the cycling community – he was a professional racer.

Other information about Kevin Rowe, his career or life were not not known or made available Tuesday.

Other family members and friends of the Rowes could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Bellingham School District’s counseling and support team were at Wade King Elementary Tuesday, as well as the district office. The team will be onsite again Wednesday, and support will also be available after the holiday weekend, according to the school district’s statement.

Dr. Gary Goldfogel, the Whatcom County medical examiner, said autopsies were planned Tuesday.

The Bellingham Herald reporter Robert Mittendorf contributed to this report.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

Related stories from Bellingham Herald